Originally Written 8/31/15
On Saturday I had the amazing opportunity to see the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years race at Saratoga. He was amazing. He was fast. He was courageous. He was the only reason why I attended Travers Day, which I have not done before this season. There's not a single three year old colt in the past that has drawn me to Travers Day. If Pharoah had stayed home in California, I wouldn't have attended Travers Day this year.
Such is the power of the son of Pioneerof the Nile.
People are disappointed that Pharoah lost. The Zayats are disappointed. The Bafferts are disappointed. The people who attended Saratoga wanted to feel the euphoria that everyone at Churchill, Pimlico, Belmont and Monmouth felt. It is an addicting feeling because it is rare in current society. Life has too many pressures. What makes one person happy, often disappoints another. There is always a loser unless everyone is rooting for the same thing. When you can get thousands of people to root for one horse, it will always result in powerful emotions.
Pharoah ran an impressive race in defeat. Although, everyone will point to the soft early fractions as a reason why Pharoah should have won the race, they are not taking into account the ultra-fast second half he ran.
The Travers was a hard race for American Pharoah because he faced a challenge like no other. When Frosted came to him for that ridiculous second half battle, American Pharoah gutted himself to beat the opponent he'd flicked away in the Belmont Stakes. When Frosted passed American Pharoah, the handsome horse should have thrown in the towel. However, being the champion he is, Pharoah came back and defeated the horse that he has beaten twice before. Frosted's camp has taken every reasonable attempt to beat American Pharoah, but at this point it doesn't seem like they ever will.
Keen Ice, a true blue mile-and-a-quarter horse, took advantage of the fractions set in the second half and a softened up American Pharoah. Without Frosted, Keen Ice might not have beaten AP at all. American Pharoah has shown twice now that he is going to come out victorious in a dog fight. Keen Ice simply took the opportunity to beat American Pharoah as Onion beat Secretariat and Upset beat Man O' War.
I applauded Keen Ice after the Travers. He beat a great horse and notched a grade one, setting himself up for a career at stud upon retirement. If he never does anything else, Keen Ice will be known as the horse that defeated American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers.
Secretariat and Man O' War are not defined by their defeats. American Pharoah will not be defined by his either. His defeat will define his greatness. It takes immense courage to only go down three-quarters of a length when you are not at your best at a distance that is not your favorite over a track that you've never raced over before.
I hope the Zayats can appreciate what American Pharoah did in the Travers. I hope that Ahmed Zayat's words of imminent retirement are only words and not future actions. Zayat has an opportunity to stir the pot and add more excitement to a racing world that desperately needs it. It would be ridiculous to sweep this horse away when people are finally paying attention just because of one loss. Zayat says he will retire the horse if he is not himself, but it is because of who American Pharoah is that he finished second on Saturday.
If this were any other time and if the Breeders Cup did not exist, American Pharoah would be rested for a late three year old and four year old campaign. Fans would have another year to embrace their champion and his Travers loss would became a distant memory.