Huge crowd on hand as American Pharoah has timed Friday morning gallop
The bay colt was led from the barn just after the 8:45 a.m. renovation break and was accompanied by stable pony Smokey to the track.
Though it was classified as a gallop, clockers were on hand and caught American Pharoah in splits of :15, :30 1/5, :44 3/5, :57 4/5, 1:11 3/5, 1:27 1/5, 1:41, 1:55 4/5 and 2:09 3/5. The Pioneerof the Nile colt traveled the Travers’ distance of 1 1/4 miles in 2:24.
"We had a nice little gallop today. It looks like everything went really smooth. I could tell he really liked the track," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He was floating around there like he usually does.
“We were looking for something like that, something positive. I feel very happy with the way he went today. It looks like he made the ship well, he's eating well and enjoying himself. I think he thinks he's at camp. This is beautiful horse country.
"He's got a great mind. He knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off. There's no wasted energy," he added. "He loves to run. He just loves to get out there. You can tell, when he got on the track he was really happy and he couldn't wait to take off. He was a little strong taking off but once he gets in that rhythm, that stride, that's where he really has an advantage over horses."
Fans were quick to express gratitude to Baffert for bringing American Pharoah to Saratoga for the Travers.
"I was pretty overwhelmed by everybody and the fans. It was pretty incredible," Baffert admitted. "I know he's got a big backing and he has a lot of fans, but it just keeps growing and growing and growing. I think it's great. A lot of fans have really been able to follow this horse and latch on to him.
"It's like the Pharoah tour. We get to take him all over the country, and he really enjoys what he does," the horseman added. "He enjoys the crowds, as you can see. That's just how he is. He's like a pet. He's a superstar pet.
“That's why the pressure to me is just to make sure everything's got to be 100 percent. Everything's got to be perfect. I feel like I'm protecting the President of the United States. I'm the Secret Service guy, making sure nothing happens to him."
American Pharoah will face nine rivals in Saturday’s Mid-Summer Derby as he goes for his ninth straight victory. The sophomore’s only loss to date came in his debut last August over Del Mar’s then Polytrack.
If he succeeds, American Pharoah will join Whirlaway (1941) as the only Triple Crown winners to take the Travers.
"There's a lot of pressure because I just feel that he's such a great horse and you want to make sure you do the right thing, but it's racing," Baffert noted. "Things can happen and there's no control over it. I just feel that as long as Pharoah runs his race, that's what we're looking for.
"We know Pharoah's really good, but it's a pretty solid field. You can't be afraid to get beat. That's the way we look at it. We feel confident that he's going to run a good race, and that's all you can do. We'll just lead him over there. I think that's what true racing's all about, to witness big performances."
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography