Friday, July 3, 2015

American Pharoah will return to track at Haskell Invitational: Report

For those railbirds waiting for American Pharoah to come out of the gate again, here's news to put under your pork-pie hat. The history making horse officially has a return date and next up for the Triple Crown winner is the $1-million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Bob Baffert confirmed Thursday that the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 will run in the 11/8-mile stakes for 3-year-olds on the New Jersey racetrack, according to the Daily Racing Form.

It will be American Pharoah's first race since he ran away from the Belmont Stakes field by 51/2 lengths on June 6.

"The Haskell is the first logical spot to bring him back," said Baffert. "We just wanted to make sure we were happy with the way he came out of the Belmont. That mile-and-a-half was pretty stiff, but he's doing well.''

The Haskell originally was the heavy favorite for Pharoah's comeback, but on June 18 owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat tweeted that Saratoga's 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes on Aug. 29 was in contention.

Baffert has won the Haskell a record seven times, including in 2012 with Paynter, whom Zayat also owned. And Zayat, a New Jersey resident, said the Haskell "sentimentally" was his choice. 

"We're overjoyed," Monmouth Park president Bob Kulina told The Associated Press. "I want to thank Mr. Zayat and Bob for picking the Haskell.''

A 3-furlong run in 36 2/5 seconds Monday morning at Santa Anita convinced Baffert that Pharoah was ready to get back to the turf. It was his first timed workout since the Belmont.

"He worked like a champ,'' Baffert said. "He won't do any serious work until we get to Del Mar, but he's pretty tight right now and ready to go.''

There is speculation that the purse might be raised even higher to guarantee his participation.

Was that a collective "Aaaaayyy" from the Jersey Shore I just heard?

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