The morning after ending the 37-year Triple Crown drought, American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) was in fine form, according to trainer Bob Baffert.
“Looking at the horse today, he looked pretty darn good for a horse that just ran a mile and a half,” Baffert said outside of Barn 1 in Elmont. “He’s a tough horse. Today he looked like he could run back in three weeks.”
Baffert allowed members of the media to pet American Pharoah outside of the barn to demonstrate the colt’s demeanor.
“I just wanted to share him with everybody to show how kind and how sweet he is,” Baffert said. “He’s been so special to me because for some reason he connects with me. Horses of his caliber are not that nice. He’s just sweet and he’s so different from any other horse I’ve had.”
Baffert continued, “Sometimes I can’t believe I have him in my barn. To see this horse finally do something like this…I was starting to believe that maybe it was never going to happen. I was starting to think that maybe it’s the breed, but it’s not the breed. We just have to wait until a superior horse comes around, and they don’t come around that often. You have to have a superior horse, and he also has to be tough and be able to handle the grind.”
Owner/breeder Ahmed Zayat said he recognized the colt’s potential early on.
“We were told from the time he was a young foal that he was special, and I told that to Bob from Day One,” Zayat said before watching American Pharoah’s Triple Crown banner unfurled in the Belmont grandstand to hang with those of the previous 11 winners. “Then when he went to Bob’s barn, it was the same. Bob never hypes a horse, but he did tell me ‘He’s the one, but let’s keep that between ourselves because we don’t want to jinx him.’ Now the secret is out.”
American Pharoah, who left Belmont on a 7:30 a.m. flight Sunday headed for Kentucky, was given a hero’s welcome back in the Blue Grass state. People lined up outside Barn 33 at Churchill Downs as American Pharoah arrived at 1:15 p.m.
“The feelings just go on and on; they just don’t stop,” Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes, who accompanied American Pharoah from New York, said. “Just coming here with the police escort and there were fans on the street waving–it’s a lot of roller-coaster emotions.”
American Pharoah will get a four-day break from training before connections decide what their game plan will be.
“After we freshen him up, we have options,” Baffert noted. “We’ll have time to figure it all out, and right now we just want to love on him and enjoy him.”
Baffert, Espinoza Generous After Win
Bob Baffert and wife Jill, as well as jockey Victor Espinoza were quite generous following their Triple Crown victory. Espinoza will donate his $80,000 GI Belmont S. earnings to City of Hope cancer research and treatment facility in Duarte, California, while the Bafferts will be donating $50,000 to each of the following charities: the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the California Retirement Aftercare Account, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and Old Friends Farm in Kentucky.
Espinoza on Media Trail
Victor Espinoza will remain in New York for a number of national media commitments. The jockey threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium Sunday and will be on NBC’s Today Show with Matt Lauer and on the Jimmy Fallon Show Monday.
NYRA Registers Second-Highest Handle in History
Saturday’s Belmont card witnessed the second-highest all-sources handle in the history of NYRA, with $134,839,391 wagered on Saturday’s 13-race program. On track wagering tallied over $16.8 million, while off-track betting totaled more than $117.9 million.
High Ratings for Belmont
American Pharoah’s Triple Crown-winning Belmont S. victory, which was televised on NBC, registered a 12.3/27 meter market rating, the third best of a Belmont S. on record. NBC has posted back-to-back 12+ overnight ratings for the Triple Crown’s third jewel, marking the first time in People Meter history that successive Belmont Stakes have topped a 12 overnight.
MCLAUGHLIN PLEASED WITH FROSTED
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was pretty pleased with Frosted (Tapit)’s runner-up effort in Saturday’s GI Belmont S. “It was an exciting race,” said McLaughlin. “For about three strides, I started to call on [Frosted] and then I looked back at the leader and said, ‘Oops.’ We were very proud of our horse, he ran very well he just ran into a star.
McLaughlin added, “It was a great day of racing, to have a Triple Crown winner. We were second best, no excuses. We got paid for second this time, last time we thought we were second best, but finished fourth [in the GI Kentucky Derby]. American Pharoah is a great horse; he does everything right and he does it effortlessly.”
Trainer Takes on the Belmont Stakes
New York trainers weigh in on the Triple Crown sweep:
“We watched the race from my box and I think it was an outstanding performance from the horse, all the connections, and particularly Bob Baffert. He deserves a lot of credit for his horsemanship. For that horse to miss the [GI] Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with an injury, and then in January to not know if he was going to be racing in any of the Triple Crown races, to have him perform as well as he did in all three events dealing with a foot issue and all that. I can tell you as a trainer that’s an extraordinary training job for that horse. I know he’s [Bob Baffert] going to deflect a lot of attention to the horse, which is admirable, but I can tell you, being a trainer for a living, that’s a remarkable feat. I don’t know if I’ve heard that much noise at the eighth-pole at any sporting event I’ve ever been to so it was something I’ll never forget.”-Chad Brown
“I’m in awe about Baffert’s four tries. I just can’t get that out of my mind. It’s just spectacular. Unbelievable. Most trainers, when they’re done with their careers, maybe if they’re lucky they’ll have one chance. He’s had four. It just shows you how good he is. That’s it. You’ve got to give him credit.” -Nick Zito
“The racing was great, the crowd was great. I thought American Pharoah was great. Going into it, I thought he was the best horse in the race by far. Odds say he wasn’t going to win, but he dominated them yesterday and my hat’s off to him. I think in the coming weeks it’s going to be good for racing. I was listening to the radio this morning and that’s all they’re really talking about. It’s all really good. I think NYRA did a really, really good job yesterday. Everything was very positive.” -Shug McGaughey