All-American hero takes next step in Travers

Despite having seen American Pharoah steamroller his rivals into the history books this year, Bob Baffert is taking nothing for granted as his Triple Crown hero tackles the Travers Stakes at Saratoga tonight.

All-American hero takes next step in Travers

The trainer has saddled just one winner of the Grade One feature with Point Given claiming the prize after landing the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, although he missed out on the Triple Crown as he could only finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

American Pharoah has outstripped the achievements of Point Given in becoming the first winner of all three Classics since 1978 and subsequently added the Haskell Invitational to his tally at Monmouth, winning by just over two lengths under a very tight rein earlier this month.

Keen Ice chased him home and tries his luck again, as does the third-placed Upstart.

Frosted and Tale Of Verve finished second behind American Pharoah in the Belmont and Preakness respectively, while Frammento has finished behind on a couple of occasions, but there are a handful of fresh challengers in this 10-furlong heat.

Baffert has identified last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero Texas Red as a particular threat after injury forced him to miss the Classics. He landed the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga last time out.

Baffert said: “(Texas Red) is a very nice horse; he won the Breeders’ Cup very impressively. I think (his connections) have done a great job getting him back (to the races). (Texas Red) is going to be tough.

“It’s not an easy race. You’ve got Frosted in there. There are the new shooters coming up. So, we’re prepared for a tough race.”

Smart Transition, King Of New York and Mid Ocean all face American Pharoah for the first time but are long shots in the ante-post market.

A crowd estimated at around 15,000 was at Saratoga yesterday morning to watch American Pharoah go through his paces.

Newmarket-based trainer Hugo Palmer, whose New Providence runs in the Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes on the same card, was among those in attendance.

He said: “It’s just incredible. There were 15,000 people here to see a horse work. We don’t even get that for July Cup day at Newmarket!

“It’s just a great atmosphere and fantastic for racing. It would be great to have something like this at home, but that’s the advantage of metropolitan racing. A lot of people live in the area and they’ve come to see the horse work.

“We have a relatively small population in Newmarket and most of them work in racing, so they’re not going to come and see a horse like Golden Horn work on the track.

“They might do if it took place in Hyde Park.”

William Hill make American Pharoah 2-9 to maintain his winning streak, and 2-1 to win by six lengths or more.

Spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “Unbeatable, unstoppable, invincible. These are just some of the adjectives used to describe American Pharoah and if they are right then form an orderly queue to collect your winnings.”

Meanwhile, Palmer reports New Providence to have settled in well ahead of her Grade Two assignment.

“I really couldn’t be happier with her,” said the trainer.

“She looks amazing and is so settled. She breezed on Tuesday and is suited to the American work-style.

“She’s drawn widest of all, so we’ve got to overcome that, and we’re trying a new distance, but we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox