A point emphatically made in June was marvelously belabored at Monmouth Park on Sunday: American Pharoah has nothing more to prove by running in age-restricted events.
As expected, that empirical statement hasn’t silenced the drumbeat of those arguing the Travers (G1) and/or Pennsylvania Derby (G2) would be perfect fits for the Triple Crown hero’s next start or two.
They would indeed be perfect — from the standpoint of their respective track managements and the connections’ bank accounts. A victory by American Pharoah in either or both would also enhance the legacy of those races, but at this point neither would enhance the legacy of American Pharoah.
When horses, particularly three-year-olds and fillies and mares, have virtually run out of competition in their own division, it’s time to start thinking about transcending them. Along those lines, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has now put his dual champion mare Beholder under consideration for the August 22 Pacific Classic (G1) following her facile victory in Saturday’s Clement Hirsch (G1).
If the time is now for Beholder, it’s certainly the time for American Pharoah.
“American Pharoah will attempt to do just that in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), what’s the rush?” some might ask. Well, if American Pharoah is as good as everyone believes him to be, why go through the motions?
The divisional and national championships were won two months ago. If, as some believe, the older male division is in as much disarray now as it has been for most of the past seven seasons, American Pharoah has absolutely nothing to fear or lose. Winning more than one race open to the world in a season is doable and an historically noteworthy accomplishment for any three-year-old. Why not go for that brass ring?
The connections’ desire to run for good money can be accommodated. Rather than pumping up the purse of the Travers, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) could increase the purse of the September 5 Woodward (G1), which would give American Pharoah an extra week of preparation. Alternatively, NYRA could give the October 3 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1)’s advertised prize money a boost, and it wouldn’t force them to dig as deep into its pockets.
Del Mar, of course, will be dangling every carrot at their disposal to entice American Pharoah to wheel back on relatively short rest in the Pacific Classic. The September 26 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita is another option that makes sense in theory, but if the track can’t afford to run the John Henry Turf Championship (G2) this fall it’s doubtful it can raise the purse of the Awesome Again much beyond its current base of $300,000.
All of this is perhaps wishful thinking. The horsemen’s adage of keeping yourself in the best of company and your horse in the worst will be an underlying factor in choosing which race American Pharoah will appear in next.
The cheers and joy created by American Pharoah will continue regardless of which race(s) precede his appearance in the Breeders’ Cup. Forgive me, though, if my applause in the wake of another win in an age-restricted race is reduced to a slow clap.
(Photo: Mark Wyville/Equi-Photo)