Short-priced American Pharoah makes good races unplayable

Short-priced American Pharoah makes good races unplayable

Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Bob Barry: Hail and Farewell Already

A horseplayer's thoughts on American Pharoah

It's not every day when the presumed interests of a big international bloodstock company converge with those of a weekend horseplayer, but today is one of those days. After American Pharoah 's win in Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, I'm guessing that—for our own separate reasons—I stand with the folks at Coolmore Stud. I can't wait for this farewell tour to be over.

Other than the fact that he's spent much of his young life at about even-money, I've got nothing against the horse. He moves beautifully. He handles any dirt surface and any type of going. He relaxes nicely off of a hot pace or sets his own if no one else is willing. The one time he found himself in a tussle—in the stretch run of the Kentucky Derby—he withstood 30-odd lashes and gutted out the win. He doesn't even seem to mind having every single one of his baths recorded for posterity and shared on Twitter.

As a "vertical" bettor (one who feeds the win, exacta, and trifecta pools that pay out on the up-to-down structure of a single results chart) who prefers to bet against short-priced horses rather than on them, 'Pharoah' has been turning typically eminently bet-able grade I events into races that are merely watchable (yes, with some noncommercial pleasure).

Certain "horizontal" bettors may disagree. Those who feed the Pick 4 and Pick 6 pools sometimes appreciate a short-priced but reliable favorite that can be singled with confidence, helping to hold down the already sizable cost of their tickets. With a lifetime record of eight-for-nine, American Pharoah has been a near-perfect "horizontal" horse. ("Pick" bettors are known as horizontal players because—when they get beat out of a 10-figure score by a nose on the wire in the last leg of a sequence—that is typically the position in which you will find them.)

This horseplayer has always doubted that a Triple Crown winner would ever do racing any good. But even as I wish 'Pharoah' would just get on with his stud career already, he may have already helped to make future editions of the Belmont Stakes more profitable.

Over the 37 years between crowns, savvy horseplayers realized that the rigors of the series made short-priced Triple Crown aspirants bad bets in the Belmont. Before this year's Belmont, this type of analysis started showing up in the mainstream press (for horseplayers, a sign similar to shoeshine boys furnishing brokers with stock picks). By proving to the world that Triple Crowns are still possible, American Pharoah may have helped to goose the win mutuels of upset Belmont Stakes winners for years to come.