Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken”
The Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2 marked the highly anticipated return of American Pharoah. The Triple Crown champion did not disappoint, as he disposed of his rivals in a canter, taking command on the far turn as Victor Espinoza kept his foot firmly on the brake. The two length margin over Keen Ice could have easily been ten, but Espinoza knew that Haskell day was not the day for setting him down. His Beyer speed figure of 109 under such restraint told the tale of a fit and classy thoroughbred, and Timeform announced on August 3 that American Pharoah had become their top-rated horse in the world.
Six days later, the Whitney Stakes was run at Saratoga for older horses. Liam’s Map set a strong pace, disposed of Moreno and Noble Bird early, and just failed to last as Honor Code touched him on the wire. The winning Beyer speed figure was 113, and the race immediately drew reaction and opinion from the peanut gallery. How would American Pharoah have done vs older horses in the Whitney?
Here are the Timeform pace figures for the respective races of American Pharoah and Liam’s Map:
American Pharoah 153 153 143 134 127
Liam’s Map 157 153 139 131 126
The Timeform pace figures suggest that American Pharoah would have stalked Liam’s Map early and run past him by the 6 furlong mark. Admittedly, this is a simplistic comparison because the figures were computed over two different surfaces with different biases, and you can’t just drop horses into fields and not expect the dynamic of the race to change, especially when the horse you are adding has the quality of American Pharoah. What the pace figures suggest to me is that the Whitney was not out of American Pharoah’s reach, despite the winner running a figure that American Pharoah has not yet attained.
Some were suggesting that American Pharoah had already proven to be dominant over his peers and he should have gone in the Whitney in the first place because, well, history demands it! Look, I get it. We all want to see American Pharoah attempt to conquer that next frontier that is older horses. But the ultimate prize is the Breeders’ Cup Classic, not the Whitney. American Pharoah is in a unique position from all other Triple Crown winners in that he is the first to have the opportunity to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The race didn’t exist prior to 1984.
The Grand Slam of horse racing: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Breeders’ Cup Classic. That is the prize, the destination at the end of the road, and getting him there to deliver a peak performance is the goal.
So enjoy American Pharoah’s chosen road, and don’t dwell on the ones not taken. This will be a road not often travelled in history. If he successfully navigates the remaining road and is in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, hopefully then we will see a performance that so many of us believe he is capable of delivering, putting the exclamation mark on his historic season.
NEWS and NOTES
compiled by press box staff
The rules regarding the Pick Three and Four wagers have changed for situations when wagering has closed and a race in the Pick sequence is moved from one surface to another. We saw the rule in action Sunday when rain caused races scheduled for turf to be moved to dirt after a Pick Four and Pick Three sequence had already begun. In the races that were surface-changed, the leg became an ALL for wagering purposes so regardless of the winning horse in the race, every ticket would have a winner for that race. This of course only happens if the surface change occurs AFTER wagering has closed for a given Pick wager. Prior to this rule change, the post time favorite would have been substituted. Here is the rule:
Subp. 12.Change of surface after Pick (n) sequence begins.
If the condition of the course warrants a change of racing surface in any of the legs of the Pick (n) races, and the change was not known to the public before the close of wagering for the Pick (n) pool, the stewards shall declare the changed legs an “All-Win” for Pick (n) wagering purposes only.
Leading Quarter Horse Trainer?
There is a tie atop the Quarter Horse trainer standings. Jason Olmstead and Stacy Charette-Hill have 17 wins each. Bob Johnson is in third with 12 wins. For all practical purposes the Quarter Horse portion of this race meet has come to an end. Thursday and Friday offers one Q race each but neither of the top trainers has entered. That leaves three stakes races on the schedule and only Olmstead has a horse nominated. SR UR Fired is nominated for the Minnesota Futurity but the maiden seems a bit overmatched. There is a chance a Q race might pop up on the overnight out of necessity but with Olmstead and Charette-Hill sending their horses to the Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse meet that begins this weekend, them settling this in that manner seems unlikely. It was suggested this morning that a match race be held during trainer hours between Charette-Hill and Olmstead with the winner receiving the trophy and the much coveted parking space adjacent to the grandstand.
Prairie Meadows Thoroughbreds and Jockeys Arrive
With Prairie Meadows thoroughbred meet in the books, several trainers have shipped north to close out this meet and others that were splitting stables have sent more along. Jon Arnett, a force in Iowa, has horses entered already for Friday with more to come over the weekend. Also here are Amanda Dymond, David Anderson, David McShane, Tim Martin and Ray Tracy Jr.
Human counterparts are also on the ground. Shakopee native Alex Canchari was spotted on a Mac Robertson horse and is named to ride several Saturday. David Mello, a top jock in Iowa, will finish out the meet here, working with agent extraordinaire Richard Grunder. The multi-talented Grunder will co-host the Today At The Races show and call the races Saturday as Paul Allen radio-voices the Minnesota Vikings preseason game that evening.
Hold for More
Racing analyst Angela Hermann did us a favor and skipped the obligatory question during the Minnesota Derby post-race interview. She did not ask trainer Francisco Bravo where winner Hold for More would next race. Minnesota Festival of Champions is logical but does he sprint or route on Sept. 6? Generally, when asked this following a win, a trainer will fall back on the clichéd answers about waiting to see how the horse comes back, talking with the owner first, or, one of the best, waiting for the horse to tell him .
Saturday’s John Bullit Stakes winner Diamond Joe is now a top five all-time Nebraska bred thoroughbred money earner. The 6-year-old has earned $409,137 for trainer Chuck Turco and owners Joe Koziol and Joe Miller. The Grand Island Independent published a story on Diamond Joe this week. Read it here.