Hall of Fame trainer LeRoy Jolley: American Pharoah has stiff challenge in Travers

August 28th, 2015

Trainer Dale Romans watched his Travers S. (G1) runner Keen Ice jog one mile and then gallop the same distance during the training period reserved for Travers competitors Friday morning.

At the same time, the conditioner was enjoying a conversation with trainer LeRoy Jolley, who sent out Honest Pleasure (1976) and General Assembly (1979) to take the Mid-Summer Derby.

Jolley, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1987, was also part of the exciting 1961 Travers in which his pupil Ridan just missed by a nose to Jaipur. He thinks Saratoga has a well-earned reputation as the "Graveyard of Champions" and that the 1 1/4-mile Travers will be tough for American Pharoah.

"It's really tough for a horse who hasn't trained over this track to win on it," said Jolley, who captured the Kentucky Derby with the filly Genuine Risk (1980) and again with Foolish Pleasure (1975). "This track is very different from the tracks he's been running on and from the one he's been training over (Del Mar). Horses who have been training over it all along and have run well over it have an advantage."

Jolley added that Texas Red has piqued his interest.

"What he did in a tough race like the Jim Dandy was really impressive when you consider that it was only his second race in eight months and he won it the way he did. And the fact that he did it in 1:48 and change makes it even more impressive. I expect him to move forward from that race. I also like the way Frosted (second by a half-length) ran in that race." 

"The three you have to think figure are American Pharoah, Texas Red and Frosted," Jolley stated.

Obviously, Romans believes that Keen Ice needs to be included in the conversation after his runner-up effort to American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational (G1) on August 2.

"He's gotten bigger and stronger since then," Romans asserted. "He keeps maturing and putting it all together. He'll like the mile and a quarter."

Keen Ice photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Susie Raisher