American Pharoah Galloping Toward August Return

Bob Baffert, American Pharoah
The Associated Press

Bob Baffert, the trainer of Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah, remains noncommittal over which race the thoroughbred will enter next, the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on August 1 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational on August 2 at Monmouth Park.

Baffert told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he and owner Ahmed Zayat favored those races, both of which run 1 1/8 miles, as the next venue for their horse. On Monday, Zayat said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show that he favored the Haskell.

Baffert has dominated the Haskell, winning it four of the last five years and seven times total. In 2014 his horse Bayern won the Haskell, then proceeded to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which Zayat and Baffert are aiming to capture again with American Pharoah. The Haskell pays $25,000 bonus to the trainer and owner for every Triple Crown race their horse has won, making Zayat and Baffert eligible to win $75,000 each. Zayat lives in Teaneck, down the road from Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Baffert has not made any hard plans as yet. He told AP, “I wait for the horse to tip me off and I’ll put him on a plane. Let’s say he was training and I was pointing to somewhere and I didn’t like his last work, I’ll wait. We don’t know how much this has taken out of him. We won’t know for a couple weeks.”

Those weeks will be used to help American Pharoah regain 20 pounds the horse lost before last weekend’s Belmont Stakes, which American Pharoah won to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

Baffert added, “When he comes back, I want him to really bring his fastball…. I feel I owe it to the horse to pick the right spot for him to get him ready. I don’t want to embarrass him. I’m not going to embarrass him because somebody made some offer or whatever.”

American Pharoah will train at Santa Anita in California starting June 18. Though he is interested in the Haskell and the Jim Dandy, Baffert has his eyes set on a bigger prize. He said, “We need to plan something out that’s good for the horse to get him to the Breeders’ Cup. That’s the main goal.”