American Pharoah
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American Pharoah
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Skip Dickstein

Zayat Wants 'Pharoah' to Run in Travers

Owner says decision is based on securing the horse's legacy with a victory.

Owner Ahmed Zayat said he would like to see Triple Crown winner American Pharoah  make his next start in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 29 at Saratoga Race Course because it would help define the colt's legacy if he were to win the "Midsummer Derby".

"I have made it very clear that I want to go to the Travers," Zayat said Aug. 4, two days after the 3-year-old homebred son of Pioneerof the Nile  won his eighth straight race, all in stakes, with an impressive victory in the $1.75 million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. "We are motivated by what defines his legacy. If it's up to me, it would be the Travers. I have made my desires known to my trainer. He knows what I want."

Zayat said American Pharoah's next start will be determined contingent upon the colt being healthy and training well, that trainer Bob Baffert is pleased with how he is doing and is able to see him train and ready to run a race like he did in the Haskell, and maintaining the conditioning that saw him sweep the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes Presented by DraftKings (all grade I).

With only one loss in nine starts and earnings of more than $5.6 million, American Pharoah is expected to make one more start before the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). The Classic, at Keeneland Oct. 31, would likely be the career finale before he is retired to Ashford Stud, owned by Irish-based Coolmore Stud.

Zayat bristled at the notion that he and Baffert have selected American Pharoah's schedule based on lucrative financial incentives being offered by various tracks, including Monmouth and Parx Racing, which has offered a bonus for the winning owner and trainer of an entrant to the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) that won any Triple Crown race. It is likely Parx would also increase the purse of its featured race scheduled for Sept. 19.

The New York Racing Association has announced it would raise the Travers purse to $1.6 million if American Pharoah runs.

"I was very surprised that Saratoga raised their purse," Zayat said. "I have not asked (racetrack representatives) for a nickel. I had zero financial discussions with them. The purse raise came as a surprise to me.

"If it were about the money we would be going to the Pennsylvania Derby because they are offering appearance fees to Bob and I."

Zayat said he has no regrets about selling the breeding rights in American Pharoah prior to his Triple Crown run. "I am very happy with the deal I made with them," he said. "There was no money left on the table. They are the best partners I could have chosen. Of course, I keep an interest in any horse I retire to stud."

He noted that he could never have dreamt that as a horse owner he would have a Triple Crown winner, let alone one bred by Zayat Stables.

In response to those questioning the decision to keep racing American Pharoah and risk possible loss or injury, Zayat said that to retire the colt now would "be depriving the industry."