-- Predictably, neither Bob Baffert nor Ahmed Zayat shed any light on where American Pharoah would run next after his sensational performance in the Haskell. We got a hint the Pacific Classic was out because Baffert said he didn't want to race against older horses until the Breeders' Cup. A minute or two later, Baffert said Del Mar was a possibility and the only race he could run in there is the Pacific Classic. Go figure.
It's OK. They don't need to make a decision 45 minutes after a race. Baffert has every right to withhold a decision until he has had ample time to look after his horse and see how he is training. It's clear the last thing they want to do is get him beat by running a horse off his game. Baffert and Zayat are adamant they won't run American Pharoah in any race unless he is 100 percent. That's exactly the way it should be. They have to protect more than a horse, they have to protect a legacy.
But when the time comes to make a decision and pick a race there's only one choice: the Travers.
Saratoga is the Mecca of thoroughbred racing in this country and the Travers is a prestigious race with a rich history. It deserves American Pharoah and American Pharoah deserves the Travers. To skip a race of its magnitude with a horse this great is not just a disservice to Saratoga it would be a disservice to American Pharoah.
American Pharoah was so good in the Haskell that he robbed Baffert of what might have been the best excuse he could have come up with to skip the Travers. Maybe he was thinking of saying the Haskell took some starch out of his horse and that he needed more than four weeks between races. How can he say that now? American Pharoah has had to work harder in morning workouts than he did in this race.
"He did everything by himself," jockey Victor Espinoza said. "It was pretty easy, pretty impressive."
There will be some pressure to run in the Pennsylvania Derby. It's a rich race, has gained a lot of stature in recent years, and fits perfectly on the calendar for those who want to find a big race while not overtaxing their horses prior to the Breeders' Cup.
So why not run in the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby? Baffert took the Haskell, Travers, Pennsylvania Derby route to the Breeders' Cup last year with Bayern. With Bayern running miserably in the Travers, it didn't work out perfectly, but it certainly didn't hurt the horse come Breeders' Cup time. He won the Classic.
Besides, that's one of the things that makes American Pharoah so special. In an era in which most horses can't stand the heat, American Pharoah is a throwback. He held up just fine through the Triple Crown grind and not only won the Haskell he won it so effortlessly that you can argue he has only improved since the Belmont.
This was, after all, more than just a victory. Arguably, this was as easy a win as the sport has ever seen in a race of this magnitude. He won by 2¼ lengths but only because Espinoza eased him a sixteenth of a mile out. He could have won by 15. The performance was simply brilliant.
Zayat keeps saying he wants to share American Pharoah with the public, and it's great that he feels that way. So share him with the greatest racing fans in the world, New Yorkers, at the greatest racetrack in the world, Saratoga. This is not a tough call.