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Horse Racing

Horse Racing

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  NFL Player Wakes Up to Find Himself Trapped in Museum

An NFL player woke up Saturday morning trapped inside a Florida museum, and suddenly we have an idea for another Night at the Museum sequel. The Tampa Bay Times reports Buccaneers wide receiver Louis Murphy was attending the wedding of fellow NFL player Deonte Thompson last Friday night at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach. He had a bit to drink and ended up falling asleep on the stairs in the museum’s courtyard. It seems the rest of the wedding guests decided to let him sleep. “When he woke up, everyone was gone, and the doors were locked,“ the Times quotes a police report for the incident as saying.

Murphy says he had to break the glass out of a door to unlock it and get to a phone. He called a friend, who called 911. “The police officers on the scene and museum staff acknowledged that I didn’t have many other options,“ Murphy says in a statement. Damage for the glass is estimated at $1,000, and Murphy is working with the museum to make it right. The museum’s public affairs director tells the Palm Beach Daily News the incident was an “internal security matter” and wouldn’t comment further. “This was really just a series of small unfortunate circumstances,“ Murphy says in the statement.


►  Jockey Kicked in Face by Horse, Then Luck Gets Even Worse

You might think that, once you’ve gotten kicked in the face by a horse, nothing worse is likely to happen to you on that particular day. Not so for Northern Irish jockey Chris Meehan, who got a gash on the jaw and a broken nose after falling from his horse during a hurdle race at Italy’s Merano track Sunday ... and then suffered another injury when the ambulance came to, ostensibly, help him. “The racecourse ambulance came up alongside us and reversed up onto my leg,“ the 22-year-old told the Racing Post. “They stopped it on top of my leg so I started screaming. It broke it straight away.“

“Everyone around me had to push it off me. You have to laugh really,“ said Meehan, adding that his father actually trains ambulance drivers and many of his other relatives are involved with ambulance services as well. “It’s bizarre, you couldn’t make it up.“ He’ll need surgery for the broken leg, a dislocated ankle, and his facial injuries, the Telegraph reports. The jaw gash required 27 stitches.


►  Rio Olympics, Now Brought to You by Insect Repellent

Making marketing lemonade out of infectious disease lemons, the Olympics have partnered with an insect repellent for the first time ever, Bloomberg reports. More than 100,000 bottles of OFF!, a repellent “widely used” in Brazil, will be given to athletes, volunteers, and staff during next month’s Olympics in Rio. SC Johnson, maker of OFF!, is also stepping up production to make sure its repellent is available for purchase around the city. The OFF! factory in Brazil has tripled shifts in recent months. “We’re working twenty-four seven,” an SC Johnson executive says. “People come to Rio from very far, they want to enjoy the Olympics, they want to enjoy their time, and don’t want to be bothered by anything.” Sales of insect repellent in Brazil rose more than 30% last year, according to Fortune.

Brazil’s new health minister says there’s an “almost zero” chance visitors and athletes will contract Zika during the Olympics, the Washington Post reports. With winter descending on the southern hemisphere, new Zika cases in the state of Rio have dropped from up to 3,500 a week to just 30. Regardless, some athletes say concerns about Zika will keep them from the Olympics, and only half of the Games’ tickets had been sold by April. One infectious diseases specialist tells the Post the government’s optimism about Zika “is a little exaggerated.“ And some within the community and even inside the government believe the health ministry is embellishing the steps it’s taking to fight Zika.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Michael Phelps Is a Dad

Michael Phelps will compete in the Rio Olympics with an extra set of eyes upon him: He and fiancee Nicole Johnson are the parents of a baby boy, reports US Weekly. Boomer Robert Phelps came into the world on Thursday, and Phelps shared on Instagram photo on Saturday. “Healthy and happy!!!! Best feeling I have ever felt in my life!!!” writes the 22-time Olympic medalist in the caption. Phelps, 30, plans to retire from swimming after the Rio Games in August, notes CNN.


►  Horse Named for a Hockey Player Wins Kentucky Derby

Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby Saturday, and given that he’s now undefeated in eight races, expect the chatter to heat up about a possible second consecutive Triple Crown year. Nyquist had been the big favorite, and he didn’t disappoint, storming into the lead on the turn for home and beating Exaggerator by a length and quarter, reports AP. So why the name? Owner J. Paul Reddam grew up in Ontario, Canada, and is a fan of the Detroit Red Wings, and he named the horse after Wings forward Gustav Nyquist. The win gives Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez their second Derby winner—I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness in 2012 but was retired the day before the Belmont with a leg injury. Last year’s Derby winner, American Pharoah, went on to win the Triple Crown.


►  Reports: Joe Paterno Knew About Sexual Abuse for Decades

According to new reports, legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno may have known about Jerry Sandusky molesting children as far back as 1971—a full 30 years earlier than he had previously claimed. Based on court documents and inside sources, NBC News reports up to six assistant coaches had witnessed “inappropriate behavior” on the part of Sandusky starting in 1976 and lasting through the 1990s. Those court documents state Paterno, who died in 2012, was told about the incident in 1976. Sandusky is currently in prison for molesting 10 boys he met through his charity starting in 1974. The assistant coaches who allegedly saw something years earlier went on to coach in the NFL and at other colleges.

But CNN reports Paterno know about Sandusky raping a 15-year-old even earlier than 1976. A 60-year-old man tells the network Sandusky picked him up when he was hitchhiking in 1971 and sexually assaulted him in a bathroom. That would make him Sandusky’s oldest victim. He says his foster parents called Penn State when they found out what happened, and he told Paterno directly. He says Paterno told him to stop making things up or he would call the authorities. The victim was never interviewed as part of Sandusky’s trial because the crime exceeded the statute of limitations. While none of the new claims have been proven in a court of law, Penn State’s own investigator into the Sandusky case believes Paterno knew about the abuse earlier that he claimed, according to Penn Live.

Triple Crown, Flubbed Punt Highlight Best Games of 2015

The Free Press WV

The games people play. There are around 300 in pro football, 2,500 in baseball, 1,500 in basketball and thousands in soccer every year — and that’s just at the very highest levels. Most blend into each other. Only a few stand out.

Those that leave a lasting impression do so because of, say, a flubbed snap on a punt, or a play call that decides a title, or a near-perfect, once-in-a-generation race to the finish line.

Those games and races kept us at the edge of our seats in 2015 — then eventually brought us completely out of our chairs and made us shake our heads upon realizing, once again, that just when we think we’ve seen it all, we’re reminded that we really haven’t.

A look at some of the best games and events of 2015:


TRIPLE CROWN: It had been 37 years since Affirmed crossed the finish line first at the Belmont Stakes to win the last Triple Crown. And over those 37 years, horse racing and its fans had seen 13 horses win the first two legs, only to falter — or, in one case, not even line up at the Belmont. American Pharoah finally broke through. He started slow and carried a two-length lead through most of the race. But then, he showed the heart and speed of a champion, pulling away over the last five furlongs to cross the finish line in 2 minutes, 26.65 seconds — ending nearly four decades of close calls.


THE FLUB: All Michigan punter Blake O’Neill had to do was field the snap and get off the kick, just as he’d done hundreds of times previously in practices and games. Instead, O’Neill fumbled the snap and Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson pulled it in, cradled it to his body and ran 38 yards for a touchdown. The Spartans won 27-23, and because of that win, they are still in the hunt for the national title. Some of the most memorable reactions came from the heartbroken, close-to-tears Michigan fans, a few of which were captured forever on YouTube. “That’s why football is loved so much in America,“ Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “It’s because things like this happen. Every now and then, they happen.“


FOR OPENERS: The first inning of Game 1 included the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series in 86 years. Later, there was a power outage that stopped play and knocked the telecast off the air. The game lasted 14 innings and, at 5 hours, 9 minutes, was the longest World Series Game 1 played. Kansas City hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth and went on to beat the Mets 5-4. And if that wasn’t drama enough, there was the underlying story of starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, who pitched even though his father had died only hours before the game.


RUGBY UPSET: It was supposed to be a tuneup for perennial title contender South Africa. It ended up being “a rugby miracle” at the World Cup, as the TV announcers called it, pulled off by none other than 1,000-1 longshot Japan. The “Cherry Blossoms” only other victory on the world’s biggest stage had come back in 1991. This time, they played South Africa toe-to-toe for more than 80 minutes, and into extra time. Trailing by three, Japan decided against kicking for a tie, and instead got the ball to replacement back Karne Hesketh, who squeezed into rugby’s version of the end zone for the winning points in a 34-32 victory.


SUPER CALL: Seattle had the ball at the New England 1-yard line with two, maybe three, chances to let one of the best running backs in the game, Marshawn Lynch, bull in for what would have been the winning touchdown. Instead, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called for a pass. Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler, a one-time do-everything employee at a fast-food chicken restaurant, had been focusing on that exact play call during the week in practice. He recognized it, stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass to save the game for the Patriots. Carroll then spent hours, days and weeks defending his play call, while Butler no longer had to worry about returning to the chicken joint.


THE 3-WOOD AND THE THREE-PUTT: So many majors are remembered as much for who lost at the end, as who won. The 2015 U.S. Open will be remembered for both. There was Dustin Johnson’s hard-to-watch three-putt from 12 feet that cost him the title — a title that went to Jordan Spieth, hardly a fluke winner in anybody’s book. It was the second major of the year for Spieth and he set it up with a 284-yard 3-wood from the near-barren 18th fairway at Chambers Bay that led to a birdie. Four days of listening to players grumble about conditions on the course, then watching most of them play down to their expectations, ended with 30 minutes of pure drama — and with Spieth cradling the trophy.


FLURRY OF GOALS: In a rematch of the previous World Cup final, the U.S. team played Japan, which had beaten the Americans on penalty kicks four years earlier. Thanks to Carli Lloyd, this game was anything but a repeat. Lloyd scored in the third minute, then again two minutes later. The United States scored four goals in the first 16 minutes, capped by Lloyd’s shot from midfield, and went on for a 5-2 victory. For a while after the match, Lloyd’s Wikipedia page listed her as “President of the United States.“

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American Pharoah wins Breeders’ Cup Classic in final race

LEXINGTON, KY — Hail and farewell, American Pharoah.

The Triple Crown champion won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 1/2 lengths Saturday, taking charge out of the gate in his final race before retirement.

The 3-year-old colt ran 1 1/4 miles in a track-record 2:00.07 as the sentimental 3-5 favorite among the crowd of 50,155 at Keeneland. Fans stood 20-deep all along the rail, cheering and snapping cellphone photos of the superstar horse and jockey Victor Espinoza.

Except American Pharoah didn’t hear them. He wears ear plugs to muffle any sounds that might startle him.

“This was for Pharoah,“ trainer Bob Baffert said. “We wanted him to go out the champion he is.“

American Pharoah took on seven rivals after Smooth Roller and champion mare Beholder dropped out. Beholder had the speed and the class to potentially make the race a contest, but a lung ailment sidelined her on Thursday.

It probably didn’t matter how many faced American Pharoah on a cloudy, cool day in the cradle of American horse country.

He smashed the old track record of 2:05.36 by more than five seconds.

“The winner is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen,“ said Irishman Aidan O’Brien, who trained last-place Gleneagles.

It was a feel-good moment for a sport that has been battered and bruised — all the troubles of declining attendance and drug controversies were wiped away in two magical minutes.

“It’s a horse racing fairy tale and I just happen to be in it,“ Baffert said.

American Pharoah was moving easily under Espinoza, keeping Effinex a length back in second for the first half-mile. Effinex was never a threat, though, and American Pharoah extended his lead to 3 1/2 lengths turning for home.

“I was trying to open it up as much as I can,“ Espinoza said. “I saw the wire maybe 20 yards (away), and for me it was not coming fast enough because I want to cross that wire and get it over with.“

After easing across the finish line, Espinoza took the colt far up the first turn before slowly walking past the grandstand to the winner’s circle, accompanied by raucous cheers all the way. The champion even had his own military escort walk him back to his barn.

The fans knew they had just witnessed history, the final chapter in a story that may never be repeated.

American Pharoah put an exclamation point on a brilliant career in which he lost just twice — in his debut last year at Del Mar and again in the Travers on Aug. 29.

In the Classic, he paid $3.40, $3 and $2.40. The win, place and show pool wagered on the race was $8,269,736.

Effinex, a 33-1 shot, returned $14.20 and $6.60. Honor Code was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.

Keen Ice, who vanquished him at Saratoga, finished fourth in the Classic. Tonalist, the 2014 Belmont winner, was fifth, followed by Hard Aces, Frosted and Ireland-bred Gleneagles.

Frosted unexpectedly pressed American Pharoah on the lead in the Travers, leaving him vulnerable to the rally by Keen Ice.

This time, no one could keep up with the champ.

“It’s a lot of pressure to train a horse like this because I didn’t want to let the horse down and I didn’t want to let the fans down,“ Baffert said. “I’m just so proud of him; it’s like watching my child out there.“

American Pharoah won nine of his 11 career starts, including the first sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years this spring. He earned a total of $8,650,300 for Ahmed Zayat, the Egyptian-born owner who chose to keep his popular horse in training so fans could see him run.

“We wanted him to go out as a winner,“ Zayat said. “He is a winner.“

American Pharoah had already ensured his place in history by ending the Triple Crown drought. He won the Derby by a length and then easily handled a sloppy track in the Preakness to win by seven lengths. In the Belmont, he led all the way en route to a dominating 5 1/2-length victory.

After winning the Haskell Invitational in early August in Zayat’s home state of New Jersey, American Pharoah took his show to upstate New York to run in the Travers. His loss by three-quarters of a length raised the question of whether he had peaked, and an emotional Zayat considered retiring him.

But the colt went back to his Southern California base with Baffert and regrouped. He quickly showed he was regaining his old form in training, in between entertaining visitors from children to Julia Roberts alike at his Santa Anita barn.

In a sport rife with jealousy, Baffert earned kudos from his rival trainers for how he handled the horse. Fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas popped into the post-race news conference to congratulate Baffert.

“I knew he’d break their heart at the half-mile pole, and he did it,“ Lukas said. “You had him ready. On behalf of every trainer who gets up and tries to make a living, I want to congratulate you.“

American Pharoah was a remarkable blend of exceptional talent and a winning personality. Unlike most high-strung, unpredictable thoroughbreds, he was friendly and patient with fans who wanted to pet and pose with him.

“The kindest, friendliest, happiest, easiest, most brilliant horse I’ve ever seen in my life,“ Zayat said. “He connected with people. He loves people. I knew he got it.“

Next up for American Pharoah is a new career as a breeding stallion at a farm in Kentucky bluegrass country near Keeneland.

“It’s going to be sad to see him go,“ Baffert said. “But I think he’s done enough. He’s proved enough.“

Turning to his 10-year-old son Bode, the trainer said: “We’re going to miss him, aren’t we, buddy?“

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American Pharoah to race again in Breeders’ Cup Classic

NEW YORK, NY — A few days of indecision over, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is back on schedule for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and a chance for a magical career-ending race.

After a tough loss in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course last Saturday, American Pharoah’s owner Ahmed Zayat said his “gut feeling” was to retire rather than race on as planned.

On Thursday, following hours of talks with trainer Bob Baffert and the rest of Team Pharoah this week, the owner decided against retirement because “the champ deserves another chance.

“I am very confident that this is the right decision for American Pharoah,“ Zayat said in a statement released to The Associated Press and several other media outlets. “He loves to race. He has provided my family, racing fans, and general sports fans with great thrills this year.

“He won the Triple Crown earlier this year, and he deserves the chance to be in the sport’s premier year-end event.“

Zayat says after conferring with Baffert, assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, jockey Victor Espinoza and his son and racing manager, Justin Zayat, that American Pharoah came out of the Travers “in great shape.“ His initial read was perhaps the chiseled bay colt was tiring from the grind of shipping more than 20,000 miles by air and horse van and running in seven tough races since March.

“I believe there were a combination of factors that prevented American Pharoah from running his absolute best on Saturday,“ Zayat said without elaborating. “I have every confidence that he can run to his best again.“

Since the loss to Keen Ice in the $1.6 million Travers, American Pharoah was returned to Baffert’s home base at Del Mar Racetrack in California. He is to be paraded before fans at the track this weekend, and then on to Santa Anita to continue training.

There’s also a chance he could travel to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, for training in the weeks leading to the Classic at nearby Keeneland in Lexington on October 31. Also, there’s an outside possibility of a race before the Classic.

The reception at the Spa also may also have played a part in Zayat’s decision to keep going. An appreciative crowd of 15,000 showed to watch American Pharoah gallop the day before the race, and a sellout crowd of 50,000 tried to cheer him to victory.

Zayat has said he wants to share the horse with racing fans, and even after the loss he was impressed with the support. Some fans called out to him and Baffert, “Thanks for bringing him here.“

The buildup to the BC Classic surely will be bigger than ever. In addition to the Triple Crown winner, the field could include two-time champion mare Beholder, who beat the boys in the Pacific Classic last month, Travers winner Keen Ice and Whitney Handicap winner Honor Code.

Breeders’ Cup President Craig Fravel said he usually doesn’t comment on individual horses considering the event, but “we want to acknowledge the Zayat family on their decision to keep American Pharoah in training, and look forward to his continued engagement with the fans who have so genuinely connected with the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.“

American Pharoah’s breeding rights were sold to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud for an unknown fee, likely in the tens of millions of dollars. Since the horse is still racing, a stud fee has not been announced.

American Pharoah has won eight of 10 races and earned nearly $6 million. The loss in the Travers was his first since August 09, 2014 — his first career start.

The son of Pioneerof the Nile won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on August 02 in his first race since sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pharoah looks good after loss; no decision on racing plans

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — They were waiting for their horse, ready to take pictures with cellphones and ready to feed him snacks.

On the morning after a startling upset at the Travers Stakes, a small gathering of fans visited racing’s biggest celebrity. This group on Sunday morning was considerably smaller than the throng of 15,000 that watched American Pharoah take a routine gallop two days earlier.

Still, the Triple Crown winner’s defeat at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday didn’t diminish his legacy or appeal — not in the eyes of the fans and not in the eyes of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who led his prized colt out to be petted and fed carrots before he was sent back to his stall.

“I’m happy with the way he looked today. I could tell he’s not upset,“ Baffert said. “You could see when he was out here, he was himself. He was his sweet self.“

American Pharoah had not lost since his career debut last August at Del Mar. Since then, the bay Pioneerof the Nile colt had reeled off eight straight wins, seven of them in Grade 1 races, including his historic sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont this spring.

After a short break, American Pharoah returned with a victory in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 02 at Monmouth Park. Though owner Ahmed Zayat was intent on the Travers, Baffert preferred to wait until the final workout Aug. 23 before committing to the race.

“If I had to do it again, I would have brought him here. I’m glad I brought him. I think racing needed something like this,“ Baffert said. “It’s amazing, what he’s done for racing. Everybody in town afterward, when they saw me they said, ‘We’re sorry. We feel so bad for you, Bob, but thanks for bringing that horse.‘ It almost ended well. We almost pulled it off.“

In the Travers, his first try at 1 1/4 miles since the Derby, American Pharoah was pressed from the gate to the top of the stretch by Frosted before getting clear. But he but didn’t have enough left to hold off late-running Keen Ice.

The question now is when, or if, American Pharoah will run again. Zayat said immediately following the Travers the horse would be retired at the first hint of regression. Baffert said he had not seen any sign of that and would prefer to train up to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland, his last scheduled start before going to stud.

“He looks great today,“ Baffert said. “He could come back and freshen up and run. I don’t think he tailed off; I think he just didn’t bring his ‘A’ game. If you look at him, he still looks pretty healthy. He doesn’t look like a tired horse.“

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Spa Stunner! American Pharoah loses in Travers to Keen Ice

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY —The day after American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, trainer Bob Baffert already was leery of Saratoga in the summer.

He had every reason to be and now, American Pharoah may have run his last race.

The track lived up to its reputation as the “Graveyard of Favorites” when 16-1 long shot Keen Ice held off American Pharoah by three-quarters of a length in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes - a result that seems almost unfathomable.

“I feel bad for the horse getting beat like that,“ a disappointed trainer Bob Baffert said. “You can tell he wasn’t on his `A’ game. Pharoah tried very hard. He didn’t have the power he usually has.

“But we saw the last three-eighths was just guts and glory.“

Ahmed Zayat, the outspoken owner of American Pharoah, was emotional after the loss and made strong hints this may have been his brilliant colt’s final race.

“You have to comment to yourself, `OK, is the show over?‘“ Zayat asked about 20 minutes after the race. “`Is it the time?‘“

Then, he said, he told his family, “My gut feeling right now, without being outspoken, is to retire. It’s to say we had a Triple Crown champion.“

American Pharoah made a clean break at the start, but was stalked, then passed, by Frosted with about a quarter-mile to go. That’s when Keen Ice and jockey Javier Castellano swept into contention, and took the lead. American Pharoah fought back, briefly took the lead, but was unable to muster the extra energy he usually finds and was beaten to the wire.

“He put in a brave run, but it wasn’t good enough,“ Zayat said of his colt’s first loss after eight straight magnificent victories. “We are very accustomed to him running incredibly good.“

Only one of 12 Triple Crown winners has been able to go on and win the Travers - Whirlaway in 1941.

The Spa has been the scene of many racing upsets, including losses by two other Triple Crown winners - Gallant Fox to 100-1 shot Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers and Secretariat to Onion in the 1973 Whitney Handicap. In addition, Upset handed the great Man o’ War the only loss of his 21-race career in the 1919 Sanford Stakes.

“American Pharoah’s legacy is not tarnished in any way,“ winning trainer Dale Romans said. “Secretariat got beat, Seattle Slew got beat, Affirmed got beat. They are great sportsmen for keeping him running and taking a chance with him. He has run very hard all year and he ran a very good race today. He was pressed, (Frosted) took it to him, and we were fortunate to be running behind.“

After sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, American Pharoah toyed with his opponents and easily won the Haskell Invitational on August 2. But whether it’s the travel - about 19,000 miles by air and horse van, and over 10 miles of racing - or the curse of the Spa, the future of the 3-year-old colt has a new look.

“Have I pushed the envelope too much?“ Zayat asked. “I really wanted it for the sport, and my doing it was absolutely - and I shouldn’t be apologetic - of any financial gain or any nonsense like that.“

Before the Travers, the plan called for American Pharoah to close out his career in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 2 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. Then, on to retirement to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud. There was even talk about another race before the Classic.

Keen Ice, a three-time loser to American Pharoah entering the Travers, was given a perfect trip by Castellano, who won a record-setting fifth “Mid-Summer Derby.“ Each time, though, he got closer - seventh in the Derby, third in the Belmont and second in the Haskell.

Keen Ice ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.57 and returned $34, $6.50 and $3.80. American Pharoah paid $2.40 and $2.10 as the 1-5 favorite in the 10-horse field.

“He’s OK,“ American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza said. “Maybe just a little too much for him with the three weeks flying back and forth. He was running pretty comfortable there, but not like he used to before.“

Frosted was third, with Upstart fourth and Texas Red fifth. Frammento and Smart Transition dead-heated for sixth, followed by Tale of Verve, Mid Ocean and King of New York.

“Anything can happen in horse racing and that’s what makes this a great game,“ Castellano said.

—-

On the Travers undercard, Sheer Drama ($8.80) won the $750,000 Personal Ensign by 1 1/4 lengths over Got Lucky; Unbridled Forever ($8.20) took the $500,000 Ballerina by one length over Kiss to Remember; Runhappy ($24.60) pulled an upset in the $500,000 King’s Bishop, favorite Private Zone ($5.20) won the $700,000 Forego by 3 3/4 lengths over The Big Beast; even-money favorite Flintshire ($4) cruised to a 2 1/2-length win over Red Rifle in the $1 million Sword Dancer, and Dacita won the $400,000 Ballston Spa by a nose over favorite Tepin.

Sheer Drama, Unbridled Forever, Private Zone and Flintshire all earned automatic spots in their respective Breeders’ Cup races.

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Triple Crown winner gallops before thousands at ‘Pharatoga’

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY—With a crowd of about 15,000 cheering him all the way, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah went for a glorious gallop around Saratoga Race Course the day before he runs in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes.

The sun was shining and temperatures were in the 60s when American Pharoah walked onto the track Friday with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard at about 8:45 a.m.

Thousands - young and old - lined the fences along pathways from the colt’s backstretch barn to the main track. As he ran past the grandstand, thousands more cheered and raised cellphones to capture the moment. After 1 1/2 miles, American Pharoah was eased up and walked back to his barn for a sponge bath.

“We had a nice little gallop today and it looks like everything went smooth,“ trainer Bob Baffert said after arriving from California on Thursday. “I could tell he really liked the track. He was floating around there like he usually does. He had his ears up, and was moving out there pretty well. I feel very happy with the way he went.“

The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years is the 1-5 morning-line favorite in a 10-horse field for the Travers.

Baffert was bowled over by the reception his star horse received for a simple gallop.

“I was pretty overwhelmed. It was pretty incredible,“ Baffert said. “I know he’s got a big backing and has a lot of fans, but it seems like it keeps growing and growing. I feel like it puts more pressure on me, like I’m his guardian. I think it’s great younger kids will remember this.“

After becoming the 12th horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah was honored all over the country. He was paraded at Churchill Downs in Kentucky before a crowd of about 30,000, showcased at Santa Anita in California in front of some 20,000 fans a few weeks later and then won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey before a record crowd of more than 60,983. A sellout crowd of 50,000 is set for Travers Day.

Baffert said now that the Haskell is behind him - “deep down, I just didn’t want to see him get beat” his first race back - the Pharoah Tour is in full swing at the Spa, where this horse-crazed town is calling itself Pharatoga.

“This is what you want to see in horse racing,“ Baffert said. “Racing needed a boost. We have some really great horses that run and put on big performances, but sometimes lots of people aren’t there to see them. So this is unique ... so many people are here watching him ... through the Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell. A lot of people have been able to follow this horse and latch on to him.“

Because American Pharoah handles just about every new situation without a fuss, Baffert says it makes his job easier. However, he knows he’s in charge of racing’s most valuable jewel. And that makes him nervous.

“We get to take him all over the country,“ the 62-year-old Hall of Famer trainer said. “He really enjoys what he does. He enjoys the crowd. That’s the way he is.

“He’s like a pet. He’s a superstar pet. And so that’s why the pressure to me is to make sure everything is 100 percent, make sure everything is perfect. I feel like I’m protecting the president of the United States and I’m a Secret Service guy making sure nothing happens to him.“

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Saratoga here we come! Travers next for Triple Crown winner

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is on his way to the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, where a sold-out crowd is likely to turn one of racing’s most historic tracks into a festival to remember.

“Saratoga here we come!“ owner Ahmed Zayat said Sunday, moments after American Pharoah came off the track at Del Mar in California from a workout termed “absolutely brilliant.“

Before making the highly anticipated decision, Zayat and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert wanted to wait until this workout - seven furlongs in one minute, 23.20 seconds. It came a week before Saturday’s 1 1-4-mile Travers.

“He’s showing zero wear and tear, in fact he’s more mature, even getting better,“ Zayat said in a phone interview from Del Mar. “He did it so easy, the exercise rider couldn’t even pull him up. Bob needed to see that.“

About 2,000 fans showed up for American Pharoah’s workout.

“He always works well, but we wanted to make sure if he still has that energy level,“ Baffert said. “It was an incredible work, though. He is a pretty incredible horse.“

New York racing officials capped the crowd at 50,000 for Travers day, and all tickets have been sold. If American Pharoah starts, the purse increases by $350,000 to $1.6 million. The horse is scheduled to arrive at Saratoga on Wednesday.

American Pharoah is the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. His first encore came in the Haskell Invitational in New Jersey on Aug. 2, where he rolled to an easy 2 1-4-length victory.

He will be bucking history in going for his ninth straight victory in the Travers. Of the previous 11 Triple Crown winners, only three ran in the Travers, and just one -Whirlaway in 1941 - came away the winner.

“We’re elated to be coming to the Travers,“ Zayat, who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, said. “We want this to be America’s horse, and I promised two things after he won the Triple Crown: We would open our barn to everyone, and if he’s happy and healthy, we’d keep racing him. We are happy to be taking him to the `Mid-Summer Derby’ and to one of the most desirable races and tracks you can go to.“

The post-position draw is Tuesday night, and as many as 10 3-year-old rivals could line up to challenge him. Among them is Texas Red, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and looks back in top form following his most recent win in the Jim Dandy on Aug. 1 at Saratoga.

Other contenders include Keen Ice (second in the Haskell, third in the Belmont), Frosted (second in the Belmont), Tale of Verve (second in the Preakness) and West Virginia Derby-winner Madefromlucky (second to American Pharoah in the Rebel).

The other Triple Crown winners who ran in the Travers - Gallant Fox, Whirlaway and Affirmed - faced no more than three rivals.

Saratoga also is known as the “Graveyard of Favorites” for the huge upsets that have occurred, including one in the 1930 Travers when 100-1 long shot Jim Dandy beat Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox.

Horse Racing

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American Pharoah poised for more racing history in Haskell

From a beauty salon in Beverly Hills to an intersection in Zurich people are talking about American Pharoah.

Derek Jeter. Carrie Underwood. Drew Brees. Even Cheech and Chong. All have chatted up either the owner, trainer or jockey of American Pharoah in the weeks after the horse became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years with a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

“He’s captured the imagination of the nation,“ says Ahmed Zayat, the effusive Egyptian owner who travels the world on business and resides in Teaneck, New Jersey. “More than just a nation, if I dare say.“

On Sunday, American Pharoah returns to the races in the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, the Jersey Shore track a few furlongs from the home of rocker Bruce Springsteen, whose classic “Born to Run” has become the Haskell pre-race anthem.

On this day, though, Pharoah will be The Boss.

“We have a legend here with American Pharoah,“ says Dennis Drazen, a management consultant to the track. “People are going to be talking about being there the day American Pharoah ran at Monmouth Park in the Haskell.“

Thrilled to have American Pharoah, track officials this week boosted the total purse of the race by $750,000 to a record $1.75 million. The winner’s share is $1.1 million. A record crowd approaching 60,000 is expected. A three-day “Pharoah Phan Phestival” began Friday, with giveaways, contests, and a chance for fans to watch American Pharoah on his morning gallops. About 5,000 showed up Friday.

The Triple Crown winner is the overwhelming 1-5 favorite in an eight-horse field going 1 1/8 miles.

“He has so many fans,“ says trainer Bob Baffert, who said his wife, Jill, told him that a little TV was tuned in to the Belmont at the beauty salon she goes to in Beverly Hills, California. “There’s people in front of his barn in the mornings, and people watching him gallop and cheering for him every time. It’s fun to really share him with the fans.“

From the moment American Pharoah won the Belmont, Zayat hasn’t wavered in his desire to keep racing his prized horse - even though he’s sold the breeding rights for what could be as much as $30 million, with a stud fee that could be in the $100,000 range.

“You wait a lifetime for a horse like this,“ says Zayat, who has spent tens of millions of dollars building Zayat Stables. “We want to enjoy this. There is nothing for us to prove other than continue to help the game and for people to enjoy this.“

After the Belmont, Zayat flew off to Europe on business. He said as he was crossing a street in Zurich one day, a driver rolled down his window and called out, “Go Pharoah, go!“ In London, he said he was recognized by a salesperson in Harrod’s who told him, “I know you from the TV. You ... you won the three things. American Pharoah, right?“

At the ESPY’s, where Victor Espinoza won for best jockey, the Pharoah contingent was approached by retired Yankees’ star Jeter, who wanted to pose for a picture. Same with Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez.

“They are asking for a picture with us?“ says Zayat. “Really?“

With social media and a 24/7 news cycle these days, American Pharoah may actually be more popular than Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner many consider the greatest racehorse of all.

American Pharoah appears in the August issue of Vogue magazine. He was paraded at Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park before tens of thousands of fans. Zayat was featured on “Secret Lives of the Super Rich.“ Espinoza signed on with Steiner Sports Marketing. A Pharoah website is a recent addition to the Twitter accounts of Zayat and his son and racing manager, Justin.

“People know what he’s doing every step, and everybody knows where he is,“ says the white-haired Baffert. “I might as well put a GPS on him. But he enjoys it and so it’s fun to really share him with the fans.“

The goal is a final race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky on October 31. Then, it’s off to the breeding shed down the road at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud. Plans have not been set for a next race after the Haskell, but several are under consideration.

The Haskell shapes up more as a public workout on national TV than a competitive race. The second betting choice in the field is Upstart, who finished 18th in the Derby in his last race but finished second in the Florida Derby.

Also entered are Competitive Edge, Keen Ice, Mr Jordan, Nonna’s Boy, Top Clearance and Dontbetwithbruno.

Post time is 5:52 PM ET. The weather report is call for sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s.

Baffert fares pretty well in the Haskell. The Hall of Famer has won it a record seven times, including four of the last five years.

At times, Team Pharoah has been criticized for running where it can make the most money before retirement, but Baffert and Zayat insist that’s not the case.

Baffert said he was on a flight with the comedy duo Cheech and Chong recently. Cheech Marin asked Baffert why American Pharoah was running again.

“The horse loves to run, he loves to train, he enjoys it,“ Baffert told him. “That’s why we run him.“


►  Triple Crown winners usually succeed in 1st race back

OCEANPORT, NJ—American Pharoah will attempt to do what many Triple Crown champions have done throughout history - win the first race after victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner takes on six rivals in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Sunday. Of the 11 other Triple winners, 10 returned to racing and seven of them won.

Count Fleet did not run again after winning the Belmont in 1943 because of a leg injury. The losers? Seattle Slew finished fourth behind J.O. Tobin in the 1977 Swaps Stakes, Omaha ran third to Discovery in the 1935 Brooklyn Handicap, and Sir Barton was second to Purchase in the 1919 Dwyer.

The average time between the Belmont and the next race for Triple Crown winners is about five weeks. American Pharoah comes into the Haskell 57 days after the Belmont. Secretariat won the 1973 Arlington International by nine lengths 21 days after his record 31-length victory.

“It was a stroll in the park,“ recalls Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte. “The crowd showed up to adore the great horse and got just what they wanted.“

A look at how the first 11 Triple Crown winners fared:

—-

SIR BARTON (1919)

After winning the first four races of his career in a 32-day span - the Derby, Preakness, Withers and Belmont - Sir Barton finished three lengths behind Purchase in the Dwyer at Aqueduct. The race came 29 days after the Belmont. As a 4-year-old, he beat Exterminator in the Saratoga Handicap and lost to Man o’ War in a match race. He was retired with 13 wins in 31 starts.

—-

GALLANT FOX (1930)

After a 21-day break following the Belmont, the bay with a white blaze easily won the Dwyer against a weak field at 1-10 odds. He won four of his last five starts and was retired after his victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 17, 1930. That loss came in the Travers to 100-1 long shot Jim Dandy, and reinforced Saratoga’s reputation as the “Graveyard of Favorites.“

—-

OMAHA (1935)

After his Triple Crown sweep (he won the Withers between the Preakness and Belmont), Omaha ran third in the Brooklyn Handicap. The race came two weeks after the Belmont. A son of Gallant Fox, he ran four times in Britain as a 4-year-old and was retired.

—-

WAR ADMIRAL (1937)

The Admiral injured his right front heel at the start of the Belmont, so after his win he was given time off. He returned nearly five months later and won an allowance race in Laurel, and four days later won the Washington Handicap. By the end of 1938, War Admiral was beaten in a match race by Seabiscuit at Pimlico. He was retired after he won his only race as a 5-year-old.

—-

WHIRLAWAY (1941)

With Eddie Arcaro aboard, Whirlaway had only three rivals in the Belmont. Two weeks later, he won the Dwyer by 1 1/4 lengths. It was only the midway point of a career that totaled 60 races - 32 wins, 15 seconds and nine thirds. No Triple Crown winner ever ran more races.

—-

COUNT FLEET (1943)

Won the Derby by three lengths, the Preakness by eight and the Belmont by a then-record 25 lengths. He won all six of his races as a 3-year-old, but injured his leg in the Belmont and never raced again. He was retired with 16 wins, four seconds and one third in 21 races.

—-

ASSAULT (1946)

Another Triple champion who came back two weeks after the Belmont and won the Dwyer - by 4 1/2 lengths. The colt then lost six in a row before his next victory and was retired after two races as a 7-year-old. He finished with 18 wins in 42 starts.

—-

CITATION (1948)

A little over three weeks after his breeze in the Triple Crown, Citation won the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington Park. Big Cy won the Derby by 3 1/2 lengths, the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths and the Belmont by eight lengths. He also won the Jersey Derby by 11 lengths between the Preakness and Belmont. In 45 career races, he won 32, ran second in 10 and third in two.

—-

SECRETARIAT (1973)

It took 25 years before the next Triple Crown winner, and Big Red is considered the best of them all. He recorded record times in each of the Triple Crown races. Then, he easily won the Arlington Invitational at Arlington Park by nine lengths three weeks after the Belmont. He was sent off at 1-20 odds. Seemingly invincible, he was upset by Onion in his next race, the Whitney at Saratoga - once again proving the track is a “Graveyard of Favorites.“ Secretariat was retired after his 3-year-old season with a total of 16 wins, three seconds and a third in 21 starts.

—-

SEATTLE SLEW (1977)

Racing’s only undefeated Triple Crown winner, Slew was beaten in his first race after his sweep. He finished fourth in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park - 16 lengths behind J.O. Tobin, a horse he defeated in the Preakness. Physical ailments sidelined him the rest of the year, but he came back and won five of seven as a 4-year-old. He was retired with 14 wins in 17 starts.

—-

AFFIRMED (1978)

After outdueling rival Alydar in all three races to give the sport its third Triple Crown of the decade, Affirmed closed with a rush in the final 100 yards and edged Sensitive Prince - and avoided an upset in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He finished first in the Travers in his next race (Laffit Pincay subbed for injured regular rider Steve Cauthen), but was disqualified and placed second for cutting off Alydar entering the far turn. Affirmed won 22 of 29 lifetime starts.

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