Bob Baffert has every faith in American Pharoah as the Triple Crown hero bids to end his racing career on a high in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland tonight.
American Pharoah was the first horse to complete the much-sought-after treble for 37 years, but has to bounce back from a shock defeat in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Connections are sportingly giving him the chance to show that was a mere blip before he goes to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.
Victory in the Classic would cement his place in American folklore.
Baffert also wants another Classic triumph to his name after Bayern ended his long wait with a narrow verdict over Toast Of New York last year.
He said: “It (Triple Crown) had eluded me all these years, so my life is fulfilled – I just need another Breeders’ Cup Classic! He has speed and the acceleration to get him out of a jam. It’s like being stuck in traffic and you are driving a Ferrari – you can manoeuvre a bit easier than the other people. He gives the jockey a lot of confidence, he knows he’s sitting on something really special.”
On American Pharoah’s surprise reverse in the Travers Stakes, Baffert told Racing UK: “We took a shot, we threw one deep in the end zone and came up short, but he still ran a terrific race. He just didn’t bring his ’A’ game that day – it showed as you could tell down the back side.
“Sometimes you get so high on these horses. You figure, ’Don’t worry, he can still beat ’em’ Things didn’t go right for us there but leading up to it was exciting – the whole town was going crazy. They just love that horse. This horse has done so much for the sport of horse racing in America.
“He’s made a lot of people feel really great as people had been waiting for the Triple Crown in America. It’s still an honour to have a horse like that.”
Baffert is thrilled with the condition of his champion.
He said: “He’s at his peak, he’s happy and he’s doing really well. He’s going to come out of there running.
“They still have to get the trip and we’re hoping he gets a clean break, a clean trip and a good trip. My job is to have him at peak performance, then it’s up to Victor Espinoza to play the break and decide what he’s going to do with him. Victor has an idea because he’s on the inside (stall four) so there’s not a lot of thinking going on there.
“The trip is going to be important – the pace, the trip. A lot of jockeys get excited and you don’t know who is going to do what.
“I told Victor, ’Just ride your horse and don’t worry about anyone else. Don’t panic’.
“I told him to keep him happy and stay in his groove. He can’t worry about what’s going on around him.”
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