There were no regrets from American Pharoah 's trainer Bob Baffert the morning after the Triple Crown winner finished second to Keen Ice in the Aug. 29 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course. Nor was there any further light shed on whether Zayat Stables' homebred runner will compete again.
"If I had to do it again… I'm glad I brought him (to Saratoga)," Baffert said. "Racing needed something like this. He almost pulled it off."
Baffert, who brought American Pharoah out of his stall Aug. 30 for a meet-and-greet with the media, reported that the son of Pioneerof the Nile came out of the race in good shape.
"He's fine today," the trainer said. "He was blowing pretty hard last night after the race, but once he got back here, within about 10-15 minutes, he was cooled out pretty quick. We could tell that's the first time he got a lot out of (a race). He was blowing pretty good."
At the post-race press conference, Zayat suggested that the Travers could be the champion's final start.
"My gut feeling right now, without being outspoken, is to retire him," Zayat said about 15 minutes after the Travers was run. "We had a Triple Crown champion. I don't think you guys understand. I pushed so hard and I hope I didn't push Bob, because I know Bob isn't a person to be pushed."
When asked about Zayat's comments Sunday, Baffert said, "Mr. Zayat is a very emotional man. We were all pretty disappointed. We were like in shock. We were surprised he got beat. We weren't really prepared for a losing speech. When we hit it, it was like, we've just got to get through this.
"Basically, we'll let the horse tell us what he's doing. I really don't know what the thought is. I know (Zayat) will be going back and forth. He brought him up here. You really have to thank him. He wanted to share him. He's a sportsman for bringing him up here and sharing him with Saratoga. He did it for racing and it didn't work out. He rolled the dice and it didn't work out, but he almost pulled it off. (American Pharoah) was just valiant in defeat and he was trying so hard. He was empty, empty, at the top of the stretch and he was still trying to win. I still thought there was a chance."
Baffert said the "complexion" of the Travers changed when Frosted 's regular rider, Joel Rosario, was replaced by Jose Lezcano about 55 minutes before the Travers was run. Rosario was sent to the hospital after he fell from his mount in the Priority Jets Forego Stakes (gr. I). Lezcano elected to put pressure on American Pharoah from the start of the 1 1/4-mile Travers.
"Once Rosario got hurt, it sort of changed the whole complexion of the race," Baffert said. "I think that was the whole key. I don't know if Rosario maybe would have just tracked him or what. Maybe Frosted would have won it. But (Lezcano) put pressure… They took off running from the five-eighths (pole). They just opened up on the field. I was like, 'What is (Lezcano) doing?' Maybe he was instructed to stay on us the whole way. I found his ride to be a little odd. He was trying to win. I'm not upset with (Lezcano)."
Frosted finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind American Pharoah, who lost the Travers to Keen Ice by three-quarters of a length.
Frosted's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he didn't expect for his colt to press American Pharoah.
"Joel settles him," McLaughlin said Sunday. "He knows the horse very well. He works him in the morning (to sit) off of horses. He just sat him five lengths off a horse, working him in the morning. I'm not (being) hard on (Lezcano). It was just unlucky for us that 30 minutes before the race we lost our rider, who has been working with him since March. Joel had a lot of confidence in the horse. We were sitting on a big race—and we ran a big race, but it was just unfortunate that Joel couldn't ride."
American Pharoah is scheduled to leave Saratoga Aug. 31 at 6:30 a.m. EDT. His flight home to Southern California will make a stop in Kentucky. Baffert said American Pharoah will go to his Del Mar barn.
"We'll get him back there and let him chill a bit," Baffert said. "It almost ended well. He almost pulled it off. He tried so hard under the circumstances and he still was trying to win. He could have given it up."