American Pharoah bids farewell in Breeders' Cup Classic
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert believes he has done everything possible to bring American Pharoah into his final race in peak form.
Now it's up to the Triple Crown winner to deliver a final dynamic performance in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Keeneland.
The colt who ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought is heading to stud duty at a nearby farm after the Classic. He's coming off a narrow loss in the Travers Stakes in August at Saratoga, his lone defeat in seven races this year.
''The time off gave him the chance to get his strength back,'' Baffert said. ''He's at his peak, he's happy and he's doing really well. He's going to come out of there running.''
American Pharoah looks like the probable pacesetter in the 1 1/4-mile race largely devoid of speed horses. The start will be critical. If the 3-year-old colt breaks cleanly from post No. 4 and establishes a commanding lead, the rest could be chasing for second money.
''My job is to have him at peak performance,'' Baffert said. ''Then it's up to (jockey) Victor Espinoza to play the break and decide what he's going to do with him. He has an idea because he's on the inside so there's not a lot of thinking going on there.''
Baffert is banking on another cool-handed ride from Espinoza.
''I told him to keep him happy and stay in his groove,'' Baffert said. ''He can't worry about what's going on around him.''
The task got easier when champion mare Beholder was scratched Wednesday because of a lung irritation.
That leaves a field of eight trying to spoil American Pharoah's farewell.
''It's important for me to see him go out with a win because I'm his caretaker,'' Baffert said. ''This one is for Pharoah. This isn't for Bob Baffert, it's for the horse.''