When pondering what circumstances would have to conspire to make Saratoga the “Graveyard of Champions” for American Pharoah, I was reduced to the most far-fetched fancies.
If you’ll bear with those as a light-hearted preamble, there are three legitimate possibilities at the end.
So without further ado, here are the Top 10 reasons why Pharoah could theoretically lose the Travers:
10. He’s so far in front that Victor Espinoza starts practicing his “Dancing with the Stars” moves in the saddle.
9. The ghost of Gallant Fox looms up to say, “Hey pal, you’re not going to outdo me on this one.” Affirmed would not participate, however, since he still thinks he won the Travers outright.
8. The Spa Infield Goose distracts American Pharoah with some crazy stunt.
7. A sinkhole opens up right in front of American Pharoah in full stride, and at peak speed, and everyone else has plenty of time to alter course.
6. An airborne object (a meteor? an errant drone?) flies into American Pharoah.
5. Some miscreant wants to be the next Lee Chang Ferrell.
4. The racing fates want to script an improbable upset to benefit Louisiana connections (the Desormeaux brothers, or more wildly, Dallas Stewart) on the 10th anniversary of Katrina.
And now for the real ones:
3. American Pharoah breaks slowly or in a tangle. In the absence of any serious speed in the race, the Triple Crown champ has a reasonable chance to regroup and win anyway — if he doesn’t bang himself up at the break.
2. All of the cross-country shipping finally does take a toll. Of course, if Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert thought that was a legitimate concern, he wouldn’t have sent him, and every single indicator has been positive that we’ll see the real Pharoah in all his glory. On the other hand, sometimes horses can fool you, and you’re only the wiser in hindsight.
1. With the possible prerequisites of numbers 2 or 3, one rival jumps up and runs the absolute race of his life.
Although the top three have the advantage of at least being plausible, that doesn’t make them terribly likely. Hence it’s difficult to envision Pharoah losing, unless he just has a rare off day. And that’s why they run the race.