SARATOGA SPRINGS - So, time to address the question everyone is asking: What's next for American Pharoah? Well, it won't be the Pacific Classic against older horses Aug. 22 at Del Mar or the Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds Sept. 19 at Parx. Owner Ahmed Zayat ruled them out last week.
If all goes well, Zayat said the Triple Crown winner will run in the $1.6-million, 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes on Aug. 29 at Saratoga.
"If the horse is ready, we will go,'' Zayat said Tuesday on SiriusXM radio's "At the Races with Steve Byk." "If American Pharoah trains well, my desire is to go to Saratoga. Bob [Baffert] knows that. It's the premier track in the country. After that, we're taking it race by race.''
That's how Baffert always trains, and he's become extremely protective of Pharoah. After his 2 1/4-length walkover with company Aug. 2 in the Haskell, Baffert admitted he was edgier beforehand than he was going into the Belmont. "I was so nervous today,'' he said. "I was more nervous than any time I've run him.''
Afterward, he reiterated he won't run Pharoah unless his morning exercise at Del Mar gives him the impression he could repeat his Haskell performance. He jogged Saturday and galloped Sunday, when drf.com reported he looked sharp. On Saturday, Baffert said he probably would have a timed workout this week. Before the Haskell, he said it probably would be two weeks before he'd know when and where Pharoah would run again.
"Ahmed is really excited right now,'' Baffert told the Albany Times-Union. "He has always wanted to run in the Travers. Anything is possible, but nothing is etched in stone.''
Baffert has legitimate concerns about taking on horses who have been training here all summer, such as the 1-2 finishers in the Jim Dandy, Texas Red and Frosted. He said Pharoah was "wiped out" last Monday night from the flight from New Jersey, where the heat and humidity had affected him. That reaction may make Baffert lean against shipping cross country twice in a month.
Despite his passion for the Midsummer Derby, Zayat agreed that the horse always will come first. "We are all on Pharoah's schedule,'' he said. "There are no scenarios. We are motivated by what defines his legacy. Bob lets the horse's body tell him what to do.''
The crowd of 90,000 reacted to Pharoah's 5 1/2-length runaway in the Belmont Stakes as if they were having a religious experience. After the Haskell, it sounded like Baffert feels the same.
"What I saw was amazing,'' he said. "I watched like a fan today. I'm looking at this horse like, where did he come from? I've had some really nice horses, but this horse, what he does is just incredible.
"He makes me emotional because he's a gift from God.''
Notes & quotes: Palace Malice, who won the 2013 Belmont and 2014 Met Mile for trainer Todd Pletcher, ran fourth as the 3-2 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Alydar Stakes in his second start of the year Sunday. He was 7 1/2 lengths behind winner Bay of Plenty ($8.80).