Texas Red was no match for the brilliance of American Pharoah when the pair met as juveniles in last September’s FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita. But the son of Afleet Alex was lanky and unfurnished way back when.

Fast forward to the Travers (G1), and trainer Keith Desormeaux notes that Texas Red is a different animal — not just since the FrontRunner, but even since his victory in the August 1 Jim Dandy (G2).

“He’s a lot different,” Desormeaux said. “The horse is growing physically. He’s mellowed out mentally.

“That’s the kind of thing you look for as a trainer. Mellowing out is synonymous with confidence. He’s mentally where we want him to be, and it’s going to be fun.”

Desormeaux added that it’s a privilege to be in this position with a horse purchased for a mere $17,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

“The short-priced favorite is the Triple Crown winner. I have to say even if he wasn’t here and maybe we were coming into the race as one of the co-favorites, it’s not pressure. It’s more excitement.

“Pressure is like trying to make a $100 bet and you only have $5 in your pocket. That’s pressure. We’ve got a $17,000 horse with $1.6 million in his pocket. There’s no pressure on us. It’s all gratitude.”

Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Susie Raisher.