146TH TRAVERS STAKES, SARATOGA
American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, was overtaken by Keen Ice and lost in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes, racing's Mid-summer Derby, at sold-out Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Keen Ice, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Javier Castellano, roared past Pharoah down the stretch and stunned the tiring Triple Crown winner to win by three quarters of a length.
It was only the second career win for Keen Ice, who was second to American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational four weeks ago. Castellano has won the Travers a record five times.
American Pharoah had won eight consecutive races coming into the Travers. The 1-5 favorite to win his ninth in a row finished second and Frosted was third. The attendance was capped at 50,000.
With the upset, the Travers solidified its reputation as the graveyard of favorites. Only one of the four Triple Crown winners that ran there after, Whirlaway in 1941, has won the race.
"I feel bad for the horse, getting beat like that," Pharoah's trainer, Bob Baffert, said. "Just listening to (jockey) Victor's (Espinoza) commentary, you can just tell he wasn't on his A-game today.
"He tried hard, he looked like he was done way early and he kept fighting on. The winner ran a great race. Pharoah, he dug in today... he didn't bring his A-game."
Coming into the race, there had been concerns about the travel American Pharoah has been subjected to since the start of his current eight-race winning streak. While winning all those races American Pharoah has flown more than 18,000 miles.
"That's a lot of mileage, and he's had tough races," Baffert said. "He went to Arkansas twice. And then he went to Kentucky, Maryland, back to Kentucky, New York, back to Kentucky, back to California. ... Jersey, back to California back. I mean ... You don't see a horse do that. You have to be really special to do that."
Asked if American Pharoah came into the race 100%, Baffert said, "You never know how the horse is feeling until you run him. He traveled and he shipped well, but I could tell by Victor's body language that he was done at the half mile pole and he kept trying. That's the only reason he ran second, it's because he's such a great horse but the winner ran a really great race."
American Pharoah, who romped in the $1.75 million Haskell at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, had created a spectacle since arriving at Saratoga on Thursday, as horsemen and fans sought to be in the presence of greatness. Baffert was unsure what American Pharoah's next move would be.
"I don't know, I wanted to see how taxing this race was on him," he said. "This is something we have to sit and figure out, I'm not really used to being in the position with him, so it's sort of hard to digest right now."
Only four of the first 11 Triple Crown winners ran at Saratoga after the Belmont. Whirlaway is the only horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont and Travers, though Affirmed was disqualified from first to second in the 1978 Travers. Gallant Fox got beat by 100-1 Jim Dandy in 1930. Secretariat lost Saratoga's 1973 Whitney to the unheralded Onion.
Coincidentally, no Travers Stakes winner has ever won the Breeders' Cup Classic. Eight of the last 10 Travers have been won by a horse whose prior race was at Saratoga.
American Pharoah brought extra money to the field. As the Haskell purse went from $1 million to $1.75 million, the Travers jumped from $1.25 million. The race paid through eighth place, which is $45,000.
Extract From USA Today
Keen Ice & American Pharoah / Baltimore Sun (p)