American Pharoah will become the first Triple Crown winner to compete in the Breeders’ Cup and as the expected Classic favorite, he has the opportunity to accomplish a feat we may never see again.
The sublime 3-year-old colt can also restore some lost luster for Kentucky Derby winners in North America’s richest race.
Kentucky Derby winners once figured prominently in the $5 million Classic, winning four straight editions of the 1 ¼-mile race in the late 1980s, but none have crossed the wire first since Unbridled rallied to a one-length victory at Belmont Park in 1990.
Some notable also-rans have filled the void, including Classic scorers Curlin (2007) and Mucho Macho Man (2013), who both placed third in the Run for the Roses, but the best finishes by Kentucky Derby winners since Unbridled are a runner-up by Silver Charm (1998) and a fourth-place effort by Street Sense (2007).
American Pharoah is the first 2-year-old champion to win the Kentucky Derby since Street Sense and rates as the presumptive Horse of the Year regardless of what happens in the Breeders’ Cup. Connections considered retirement following a runner-up in the August 29 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, which snapped an eight-race win streak and marked only the second loss in a 10-race career, but elected to pursue the Classic after he bounced back well from the setback.
Thoroughbred racing fans are the beneficiary and four-time Kentucky Derby-winning conditioner Bob Baffert is confident American Pharoah will deliver his best at Keeneland following a nine-week freshening. Recent workouts indicate he’s training lights-out and a lack of pace in the Classic field could benefit the son of Pioneerof the Nile.
Considering how difficult it is for a horse to win a Triple Crown nowadays, and the potential that the next one will be retired before the Classic takes place in the fall, a Classic victory would truly be remarkable.
American Pharoah has wowed audiences with brilliant performances this year, generating big ratings and world-wide interest as the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and October 31st will conclude his memorable career. It would only be fitting to see him go out on top.