SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) – With a dozen roses and about 300 people waiting to greet him, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah arrived at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday and was led off a horse van next to his barn after a flight from California.
American Pharoah seemed to be adjusting well to his new home leading up to Saturday’s Travers Stakes. He was walked around the barn area by Jimmy Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s assistant, and then given a sponge bath.
The colt left Del Mar in California on Wednesday morning, arrived at the airport in Albany around 2 p.m., and was given a police escort up Interstate 87. About an hour later, the Pharoah entourage pulled into the backstretch, where hundreds of fans, media members and the mayor of Saratoga had gathered.
One fan left a dozen roses in a vase on a table in the courtyard by American Pharoah’s barn. Thoroughbred horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years was led into his stall following his bath. The winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes over a five-week period in May and June is staying in the barn of trainer John Terranova.
“It was actually a fairly quick trip, 12 hours stall-to-stall,” Barnes said. “Traveling with Pharoah, they make it very convenient for us. We’re the last one to show up to the plane and the first one off. Everybody has been very cooperative with that.”
A winner in eight straight races after a career-opening loss, American Pharoah is scheduled for a Thursday morning jog and a Friday morning gallop that will be open to the public.
American Pharoah drew the No. 2 post and is the 1-5 favorite in the 10-horse Travers field. If he starts, the purse of the 1 1/4-mile race increases by $350,000 to $1.6 million, with the winner earning $850,000.
American Pharoah, owned by Ahmed Zayat, is trying to become the second Triple Crown winner to go on and win the Travers, one of racing’s most prestigious events and often referred to as the “Midsummer Derby.” The only other Triple Crown champion to win the Travers was Whirlaway in 1941.
If all goes according to plan, American Pharoah will run his final race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, and then be retired to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.
“You just really have to enjoy it because he’s only going to be around so long,” Barnes said, “and when this is all over I’m sure we’re going to miss him. At times it gets a little hectic but you’ve just got to sit back and just enjoy it. You’re blessed to be here.”