American Pharoah draws crowd for Haskell gallop
OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Triple Crown winner American Pharoah had an enthusiastic rooting section as he galloped Friday morning in preparation for the $1.75 million Haskell Invitational.
Monmouth Park built a ''Pharoah Fan Fest'' around the colt's appearance in the race on Sunday. The first event was a free open house which drew an estimated 5,000 fans on a warm, sunny morning to watch American Pharoah prepare for his first start since the Belmont Stakes in early June.
He won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first in 37 years.
Traffic was congested on Oceanport Avenue, a main road leading to the track, by 7 a.m., 30 minutes before American Pharoah stepped on the track. Packed three and four deep along the rail, the crowd let out an appreciative roar as the champion galloped past the grandstand.
''It just shows how big this event is going to be,'' track president Bob Kulina said.
Monmouth is bracing for a record crowd Sunday in excess of 60,000.
For American Pharoah, it was another routine morning. He will gallop again Saturday morning, his final tuneup before the race.
He visited the saddling area Friday along with the horses for the first race on the afternoon card. American Pharoah was a little anxious, rearing for an instant in the tunnel leading to the enclosure. He immediately settled down for the get-acquainted visit.