American Pharoah To Race Before Record Crowd

July 30, 2015
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Triple Crown Champion American Pharoah is led off the van by Assistant Trainer Jim Barnes at the Monmouth Park Barn Area on Wednesday in Oceanport, N.J. American Pharoah, who arrived from California, will be the heavy favorite in Sunday's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.  Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

Triple Crown Champion American Pharoah is led off the van by Assistant Trainer Jim Barnes at the Monmouth Park Barn Area on Wednesday in Oceanport, N.J. American Pharoah, who arrived from California, will be the heavy favorite in Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

OCEANPORT – The waiting is over and New Jersey and the world will get to see reigning Triple Crown champion American Pharoah Sunday in the 48th renewal of the Grade 1 William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

With excitement mounting Wednesday that Monmouth Park has increased the purse to $1.75 million, a record crowd of 60,000 spectators is expected to jam access roads and parking lots surrounding the track all day.

Post time for the race (the 12th in a 14-race card) is scheduled for 5:52 pm. The race will be televised live by NBC. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and the first race of the day is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

The race will be the climax of a week-long celebration of American Pharoah, the first triple crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 with jockey Steve Cauthen aboard.

Victor Espinoza will ride Pharoah, trained by Bob Baffert, the Haskell’s most successful trainer winning seven of the events (four in last five years) including in 2014 with Bayern with Martin Garcia aboard. Bayern went on to win the 2014 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

American Pharoah is owned by Hackensack businessman Ahmed Zayat who, with his Zayat Stables, has in 10 years become one of the top five owners in the country including No. 1 in 2008 and 2015.

Shortly after winning the Belmont in June, Zayat American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 with jockey Steve Cauthen aboard.

Victor Espinoza will ride Pharoah, trained by Bob Baffert, the Haskell’s most successful trainer winning seven of the events (four in last five years) including in 2014 with Bayern with Martin Garcia aboard. Bayern went on to win the 2014 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

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American Pharoah is owned by Hackensack businessman Ahmed Zayat who, with his Zayat Stables, has in 10 years become one of the top five owners in the country including No. 1 in 2008 and 2015.

Shortly after winning the Belmont in June, Zayat committed his horse to running at the Haskell and possibly the Breeders’ Cup before standing at stud in Kentucky at what is expected to be record fees. Zayat felt it was important for as many people as possible to see American Pharoah before his racing days ended.

Although American Pharoah will go off as the odds on favorite and, if he wins as expected, many of the parimutuel tickets purchased will be kept as souvenirs and not cashed. He still has to beat the competition over one and one-eight miles on Monmouth’s dirt track.

Most handicappers believe that it is the Triple Crown winner’s race to lose. All his competition from the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont have, as this story is written, not accepted invitations for another go at the 3-year-old colt sired by Zayat Stallion Pioneer of the Nile who finished second inthe2009KentuckyDerby.

The field for the Haskell is fluid and may include:

Mr. Jordon – A colt who broke his maiden at Monmouth Park and won the Grade 3 Pegasus States July 11th will be ridden by Paco Lopez. Eddie Plesa trains Mr. Jordon.

Competitive Edge/ Stanford – Trainer Todd Pletcher will send Competitive Edge and Stanford to the starting gate. Both horses are multiple stakes winners and Stanford won the Long Branch Stakes with Joe Bravo aboard.

Tekton Tekton, trained by Anthony Dutrow and ridden by Alex Cintron, was runner-up to Mr. Jordon in the Pegasus.

War Story – This will be War Story’s first start for trainer Jeffrey Radosevich. He was third in the Louisana Derby in March and runner up in the Grade 2 Risen Start in February and the Grade 3 Lecomte in January. The horse was fourth in its last outing June 20 at the Ohio Derby.

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Several other horses including Keen Ice, Bent on Bourbon and Good Pick Nick have been mentioned as possible entries but to date have not committed to the race.

On paper, no one looks to have the speed and staying power of American Pharoah who is known for his long, smooth stride allowing him to cover great distances. Trainer Baffert has said, “I’ve never had a horse that moves or travels over the ground like he does.”

So, it appears this will be a race for second place which, in itself, will be worth several hundred thousand dollars and has been the case in the past an opportunity for a local horsewinner of one of the lead-up to Haskell stakes races like the Long Branch to shine. And it also is a chance for local jockey favorites like Joe Bravo and Paco Lopez to share the spotlight with a champion like American Pharoah.

Whether the 2015 edition of this mid-summer classic lives up to its billing remains too be seen. If it approaches the excitement of Oceanport’s Jimmy Croll trained Holy Bull’s 1994 win (the favorite Haskell race of Monmouth Park photographer Bill Denver) or Baffert’s Point Given in 2001 who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby and then never lost another race including the Preakness and Belmont as well as the Travers in Saratoga, it will be a day everyone remembers.

Monmouth Park Announcer Frank Mirahmadi who called Pharoah’s win in the Arkansas Derby, and watched him win the Kentucky Derby as guest of the owner, says the tripe crown winner is a true super horse and one that comes along only every 20-30 years. From his first day in the Monmouth Park announcer’s booth, high above the grandstand, Mirahmadi predicted he would get a chance to call American Pharoah’s visit to the Jersey Shore and the Haskell. And he was right.

– By Art Petrosemolo

 

 

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