Baffert planning to get Triple Crown winner to Breeders' Cup
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Bob Baffert's phone is ringing with calls from racetracks eager to have the trainer bring Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to their places.
It appears the early leaders in the sweepstakes are Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Saratoga in upstate New York.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Baffert singled out the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth and the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 1 as the likeliest options for the colt's next race.
But Baffert emphasized he isn't making any promises yet. If it turns out American Pharoah needs more time, he wants the flexibility to change plans.
''I wait for the horse to tip me off and I'll put him on a plane,'' the trainer said. ''Let's say he was training and I was pointing to somewhere and I didn't like his last work, I'll wait. We don't know how much this has taken out of him. We won't know for a couple weeks.''
Baffert wants to add 20 pounds to American Pharoah, who lost that amount leading up to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, which he won by 5 1/2 lengths last weekend to become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first in 37 years.
''When he comes back, I want him to really bring his fastball,'' Baffert said.
The Haskell and Jim Dandy are both run at 1 1/8 miles on the same weekend.
Baffert has won the Grade 1 Haskell a record seven times at the track on the Jersey shore. The Haskell purse is richer than the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and stallion contracts frequently include bonuses for Grade 1 victories.
Baffert has been an infrequent summer visitor to Saratoga over the years, preferring to run most of his horses at Del Mar north of San Diego.
As part of the conditions for the Haskell, Monmouth offers a $25,000 bonus to the trainer and owner for each Triple Crown race their horse has won, meaning Baffert and Ahmed Zayat could be in line for $75,000 each if American Pharoah runs. Saratoga offers no such incentives.
Even if the Triple Crown winner doesn't, it's likely Baffert would enter another of his high-profile horses, like Dortmund, in the Haskell.
The white-haired trainer who has won 12 Triple Crown races in his career described himself as ''a last-minute guy.''
For example, Baffert worked out Hoppertunity on Monday and called Churchill Downs to say he was entering the colt in Saturday's $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.
Now that he's got a Triple Crown winner in his barn, Baffert is feeling greater pressure to get American Pharoah's racing future right.
''I feel I owe it to the horse to pick the right spot for him to get him ready,'' he said. ''I don't want to embarrass him. I'm not going to embarrass him because somebody made some offer or whatever.''
American Pharoah is due back in Southern California on June 18. He will resume training at Santa Anita, where his empty stall is awaiting him.
After the Belmont, the colt went from New York to Louisville, Kentucky, his home in between Triple Crown races. The track plans to parade him on Saturday night, when Baffert, jockey Victor Espinoza and Zayat will be presented with their Kentucky Derby trophies.
''We need to plan something out that's good for the horse to get him to the Breeders' Cup,'' Baffert said. ''That's the main goal.''