Baffert praises 'incredible' American Pharoah

Fri Oct 30, 2015 2:02pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has seen it all during his illustrious career but he knows that an extraordinary chapter will close at the Breeders' Cup Classic in Kentucky on Saturday with American Pharoah's final race.

The Baffert-trained 3-year-old will be looking to sign off in Lexington with a ninth win in 11 starts, and cap a stunning season highlighted by a rare Triple Crown success before heading off to nearby Versailles to begin a stud career.

"This horse reminds me why I'm in this business," Baffert told reporters on Friday after American Pharoah had completed his final pre-race gallop on the main track at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.

"If I'm having a bad day, I'll see him and he picks my head up. He's the champ. Now I've got to find another one."

Baffert, whose horses have collectively won four Kentucky Derbies, six Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and two Kentucky Oaks, said American Pharoah was in peak form for his hugely anticipated racing farewell.

"He's there," said the silver-haired, 62-year-old trainer. "He's peaked already, but the good thing is he's holding it. That's what makes him such a good horse.

"He has been through an incredible schedule, with shipping and running, and shipping and running, and going everywhere -- and he's still there. He's incredible."

American Pharoah has been installed as the 4-5 favorite for Saturday's $5 million Classic and will break from the fourth post in a field reduced to nine runners after champion mare Beholder was withdrawn on Thursday because of health reasons.

Winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Distaff in 2013, Beholder had won all of her five starts this season and the 5-year-old had been widely viewed as American Pharoah's greatest threat.   Continued...

May 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Horse trainer Bob Baffert walks American Pharaoh inside the Preakness Barn after arriving for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports