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Flip-flops to blame for startling Pharoah

Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates after American Pharoah won

Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates after American Pharoah won the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6, 2015 and became the 12th horse in history to win the elusive Triple Crown. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

OCEANPORT, N.J. - To get American Pharoah off his game, maybe his opponents in today's Haskell Invitational should wear flip-flops instead of horse shoes.

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes confirmed Saturday morning that the unfamiliar sound of someone running in flip-flops on a hard floor spooked the Triple Crown winner as he was being led toward Monmouth Park's paddock Friday afternoon. The startled colt bucked and reared up near a 4-foot metal gate, and when Georgie Alvarez tried to control him, the exercise rider lost his balance and fell. The only injury was to Alvarez's pride.

"When we got to the tunnel, somebody was running in flip-flops, and the noise echoed and was magnified in the enclosed area," Barnes said. "These things happen. That's why he wears [cotton] earplugs, but they don't keep out all the noise.

"There was no panic. I just stepped over [Alvarez] and kept going to the paddock."

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