It’s a long shot, but Del Mar racing officials continue to bat their eyes toward stable FF.
“Don’t count Del Mar out,” said Mac McBride, the track’s veteran director of media. “There are a few things that can happen.”
American Pharoah is back nibbling baby peeled carrots in Del Mar’s barns. The Triple Crown winner returned from demolishing his rivals in Sunday’s $1.75 million Haskell Invitational in New Jersey.
What’s next for this rock-star horse that was born to run?
“We’re still trying to decide,” said Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer. “But we’re not going to race at Del Mar.”
Del Mar would love having American Pharoah in the Pacific Classic starting gate on Aug. 22. But that seems a quick turnaround for any horse, even one has compelling as American Pharoah.
“It’s too soon,” Baffert said.
But it’s not too late, McBride stressed. “We feel like we are still in the hunt,” he said.
Most speculate American Pharoah will race again in the Travers Stakes in Saratoga, N.Y., on Aug. 29. “But one great thing going for us in that regard is if he goes to Saratoga, he’ll have to put on an airplane and the track is way the heck up there,” McBride said. “It’s a major production to get to Saratoga. And in the summer the weather there can be rain, lightning, heat.”
“Here, you don’t have to ship him. He just walks over from the barn and you know the the weather is going to be good and we’ll have a breeze.”
Sounds like a description of American Pharoah’s races. But it’s clear he’s cozy at the seaside oval.
“He loves this track,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s assistant.
Del Mar fans would love to see American Pharoah race. Nearly 400 patrons have attended American Pharoah’s morning workouts and McBride has witness something for the first time at Del Mar — but he’s only been there since 1981.
“They watch him go through the drills and then they give him a round of applause,” McBride said. “I’ve never seen that.”
Racing hasn’t seen the likes of a horse like American Pharoah in nearly four decades. That’s why there’s such a commotion whenever he leaves his shed.
“It’s special, obviously,” McBride said. “We’ve never had a Triple Crown winner come and hang out with us. To have a horse of that caliber here is special and on top of it he’s an amazing character.”
“On the race track he is a tiger; he is all business,” McBride said. “He has this way of going — he has what will call action. The way he moves his legs is just perfect and that is why he runs as fast as he does. Other horses are pounding the track and he is floating along. And he loves to be out on the race track, bowing his neck and thinking, ‘oh man, this is fun.’ You can see it.”
“Then he goes back to the barn and he is a pussy cat, you can snuggle him. Usually horses like him, they just as soon bite you. But he wants to be your friend.”
Just maybe Baffert throws his Del Mar buddies a bone, surprisingly them by entering American Pharoah in the Pacific Classic.
Two other options are more viable: American Pharoah working out for the fans before the Pacific Classic or parading before them.
“Any or all of those things are possible,” McBride said. “But the main thing is this is a very cool horse and we are delighted to have him, even if he just uses us as his summer base.”
This sweet summer is almost gone. But not before Del Mar takes another run at American Pharoah.
(VIDEO: Scott Kaplan & Annie Heilbrunn preview the upcoming week at the Del Mar race track, and also the track’s search for next great race caller.)