American Pharoah was back working at Baffert’s Santa Anita base this week for the first time since his historic victory in last month’s Belmont Stakes, where he became America’s 12 Triple Crown victor, ending a notorious drought since Affirmed in 1978. On Thursday afternoon owner and New Jersey resident Ahmed Zayat made the announcement; the Haskell it is. That would be his first test against older horses.
If history is any indication, Amercian Pharoah has a great chance at winning the Haskell. “If the horse goes out (to the Haskell) and wins and does it well, we see it as a possibility of running in the Travers”.
“I liked the way he’s training, the way he worked and how he came out of it very well”, Baffert told ESPN. “I promised everyone that if he was happy and healthy, I would continue to race him”.
A number of racing organizations, including the New York Racing Association, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, and Parx Racing, have been attempting to lure American Pharoah to their tracks, but the Haskell, which Baffert has won a record seven times, always seemed like the front-runner, partially due to its spot on the calendar.
“We’ll see what happens after (the Haskell)”, Baffert said.
Zayat and his family live in Teaneck, New Jersey, and he’s a huge supporter of racing in the state. Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Kobe Bryant were among the names mentioned by Zayat to make appearances at Monmouth Park.
Monmouth officials, who has been waiting on a decision that could make the racing season, were understandably joyous.
Monmouth will not limit the Haskell Day crowd, as Belmont Park did on Belmont Stakes Day, and estimates call for a turnout in excess of 60,000 at the Oceanport, N.J., track, which would fill it to capacity. There are bonus conditions written into the race that will pay the owner and trainer of a Triple Crown race victor $25,000 each. “It’s about the horse and the fans”.
“This was the target race all along”, Baffert said.
Following the Preakness, breeding rights were sold by Zayat to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud for what reportedly could be in the $30 million range.
Zayat said despite the decision to run at Monmouth, a trip to Saratoga for the Travers on August 29 is not out of the question.
There is no word yet as to whether Monmouth Park will be raising the purse for the Haskell, or whether there will be any kind of multiple race bonus.