American Pharoah sets pulses racing in wet Kentucky

Wed Oct 28, 2015 4:03pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

(Reuters) - Rainy weather in Kentucky this week has had no effect in dampening the mounting excitement ahead of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's hugely anticipated racing farewell at the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday.

The Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old will be looking to cap his stellar career with a ninth win in 11 starts, and many are talking about a unique 'Grand Slam' for the bay colt should he go on to triumph at the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.

Installed as the early 6-5 favorite, American Pharoah will break from the fourth post in a 10-runner field and Baffert is already preparing for a highly emotional send-off on Saturday before his prized race horse retires to stud.

"I feel like his father ... so I want to make sure he goes out there and puts on a good performance," Hall of Fame trainer Baffert told reporters on Wednesday after deciding to keep American Pharoah in the safe confines of the barn rather than send him out to jog on Keeneland's sloppy main dirt track.

"It will be sad. It's going to be emotional. It started hitting me about a month ago, and it hits me when we talk about it now.

"Just watching him train now is (emotional) because I've never had a horse that looked like him. It's been an honor and a pleasure to train him."

Baffert, who finally won his first Breeders' Cup Classic last year with Bayern after several close calls in North America's richest horse race, senses that Saturday will feel a little different.

"When I send him out there, there is always a little pressure," he said. "This is different. I just want him to run his race.   Continued...

Jockey Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah, passes the finish line to win the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes as well as the Triple Crown, in Elmont, New York June 6, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson