Triple Crown contender American Pharoah has his quirks
NEW YORK (AP) Like a lot of athletes, American Pharoah has his quirks.
The brown colt is easy to pick out on the racetrack: he's the one with the shortest tail.
American Pharoah will try to become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and first since Affirmed in 1978 when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
Trainer Bob Baffert describes the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner as ''a really kind, sweet horse.'' That's an unusual temperament among racehorses, most of which are aggressive due to their high-strung nature. The colt's favorite snack is carrots, and he'll eat them out of anyone's hand around the barn.
His sidekick is Smokey, the mild-mannered stable pony that accompanies American Pharoah to and from the track during training.
Owner Ahmed Zayat bred American Pharoah, the product of sire Pioneerof the Nile and dam Littleprincessemma, named for Zayat's youngest daughter. Zayat put American Pharoah up for sale and then bought him back for $300,000. The Kentucky-bred colt has six wins in seven career starts and earnings of $3,730,300.
He stands 16.1 hands, or the equivalent of 5 feet, 3 inches at the withers, and weighs 1,170 pounds.
American Pharoah's running style is on or near the lead, making him versatile for the grueling 1 1/2-mile Belmont, a distance most 3-year-olds have never run and won't again.
Here are some more quirks to know about American Pharoah:
Yep, he's sensitive to sound. Baffert found that out in American Pharoah's first career race at Del Mar, where he got agitated in the paddock. Now the colt doesn't leave his stall unless he has his ear plugs in. Baffert initially stuffed white cotton balls in his ears, but it didn't look good so he purchased a set of plugs used on show horses that resemble a furry, brown mouse. Unless you look very closely, you won't see them. Baffert thought the plugs would get soggy during the rain-soaked Preakness, but they actually helped keep water out of the horse's ears.
LEFT FRONT SHOE
American Pharoah wears a protective plate on the sole of his left front foot while racing and training. The plate, which goes under the horseshoe, protects the triangular frog in his hoof and acts as a shock absorber when his foot hits the ground. Baffert said he started using the plate after American Pharoah bruised the frog in February. In the Rebel Stakes in March, the colt lost his right front shoe, and in the Arkansas Derby in April, he bent his left front shoe leaving the starting gate. Neither incident affected his results; he won both races by a combined 14 1/4 lengths. Baffert downplays any issue with the foot. ''He has a very efficient, fluid stride,'' the trainer said. ''He's a very sound horse.''
As the story goes, another horse chewed the end of American Pharoah's tail off during his days on a farm near Ocala, Florida, where he lived as a 2-year-old. The result was a tail that is much shorter than most thoroughbreds. A YouTube video spoof set to the hit song ''All About That Bass'' highlights the colt's tail.
The Zayat family likes involving fans in the naming of their newborn thoroughbreds. A female fan submitted the name American Pharoah through an online contest, the family liked it and never noticed the misspelling of Pharoah until it was too late. The correct spelling is pharaoh, which is an Egyptian ruler. Zayat is from Egypt and liked the name because it referenced his heritage.