Triple Crown king Pharoah still reigns

Image credit: Thinkstock

Image credit: Thinkstock

Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, already assured a place in the pantheon of thoroughbred greats, showed Sunday he hasn’t lost a step since his Belmont triumph in June.

The bay colt romped to victory in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey — although his handlers remained coy on whether he’s headed for a showdown with the rest of the world’s best in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 31.

American Pharoah became just the 12th horse — and the first in 37 years — to win US racing’s coveted Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont.

The feat provided an energizing jolt to a sport struggling in the United States, and trainer Bob Baffert admitted Sunday that prepping the colt for his first post-Triple Crown start had been a “nerve-wracking” experience.

“The last thing we want to do is embarrass the horse,” said Baffert, whose nerves turned out to be unnecessary.

“This horse, he just keeps bringing it,” Baffert said after American Pharoah, with Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza aboard, took control in the turn for home and cruised to the win.

He went off a 1-9 favorite, and covered the 1 1/8-mile in 1min 47.8sec. His 2 1/4-length margin of victory over Keen Ice could have been greater had Espinoza not eased him in the stretch.

“He felt the same as always, he ran like a Triple Crown winner,” Espinoza said.

“Today turning for home he was just looking around… he was having fun in there — and me, too! We were both having fun.”

Owner Ahmed Zayat, who has already sold American Pharoah’s breeding rights to Ireland’s Coolmore Stud in a deal thought to be worth more than $20 million, joined Baffert in insisting that there were no firm plans for the remainder of his racing career.

“No clue,” said Zayat who, like Baffert, has said it all depends on how American Pharoah continues to bounce back from his races.

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