My mom used to refer to people she thought of as conceited as ones who felt they were “greatness personified.” Well I’m here to turn that usage around a bit toward the complimentary side. If you watched yesterday’s edition of the Haskell Stakes from Monmouth Park, you saw greatness personified in the most wonderful and brilliant fashion as American Pharoah cruised to his eighth victory in a row. In his first race back from winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown it certainly appeared that he lost nothing in the process of attaining that rare feat. Maybe he’s even better and stronger. Yikes!
If he wasn’t so magnificent to watch, you might actually start to get bored with American Pharoah’s races. He just makes it look all too easy against what are good fields of usually competitive three-year-old colts. And it’s all in that superior stride he’s been gifted with. The most telling moment in the race yesterday was shortly out of the gate when Competitive Edge took the lead, American Pharoah sat second, and Mr. Jordan was third on his flank. Competitive Edge and Mr. Jordan were working to get and hold their early positions while American Pharoah was just smoothly loping along; they were doing almost twice the work while getting half the result that American Pharoah was getting without significant effort. It almost isn’t fair. And those early efforts took their toll with Mr. Jordan dropping out quickly to finish last, beaten by 60 lengths in the end and Competitive Edge finishing a well-beaten fourth. In the end, the only horse closing ground was the late-running Keen Ice and even his closing move was a bit deceptive to the eye as American Pharoah had been geared down and was being hand-ridden to the finish line.
Personally, I’ll never get enough of watching American Pharoah running and winning. From the response of the Monmouth crowd yesterday, I’m not the only one. There was a tremendous roar from that crowd when American Pharoah began to make his move to take the lead at the turn for home. It’s a thrill to have this type of enthusiasm and turnout for horse racing again.
It’s unclear when American Pharoah will race again. There is a chance he might move on to Saratoga to run in the Travers Stakes at the end of August, the 29th to be exact. Saratoga is certainly making the effort to draw the Triple Crown winner in as they have indicated they will increase the purse if American Pharoah races. It seems like a good possibility to me; there’s probably just one, maybe two races left before American Pharoah’s final race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be held this year for the first time at Keeneland.
Meanwhile, in the Jim Dandy, the prime setup race for the Travers, the complexion of the race changed significantly with the scratches of Competitive Edge and Upstart to take on American Pharoah in the Haskell yesterday (M-O-N-E-Y) and Tekton who ran in the day before to a second place finish in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. Still, the race came down to the two horses and scenario I anticipated: Texas Red picked up early leader Japan mid-stretch to take the lead and Frosted came late attempting to run him down, but came up short. Texas Red indeed seemed to thrive with the added distance of the race (1 1/8 miles) and Frosted did appear a bit short. He also lost a shoe during the running of the race. If all goes well, the two will go at it again in the Travers Stakes at the classic 1 1/4-mile distance. I would love to see American Pharoah mix it up with Frosted and Texas Red (they met as two-year-olds on the West Coast) again. The field for the Travers will sort itself out soon enough. Stay tuned.
More great racing and fun ahead this weekend with one of my favorites: Tonalist taking on Stephen Foster winner Noble Bird and others in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney Stakes, which generally leads to the Woodward Stakes the last weekend of the Saratoga meet.
A quick word on an exciting up and coming filly racing on the turf–Casual Smile won the WinStar Matchmaker Stakes on the Haskell undercard. Casual Smile is one of the rare stateside offspring of European champion Sea The Stars. Seeing that name in the pedigree was more than enough for me and I was amazed she went off at 9-1. What a gift! She sat off the pace and bravely squeezed through a narrow spot between two other runners, late and full of run to get the win. Keep your eye out for this classy filly.
And finally, on the subject of great turf fillies, late last week it was announced that Lady Eli appears to be responding well to her treatment for laminitis. Thoughts and prayers continue on for this really special racehorse!