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Saratoga takes the lead for American Pharoah's next race

American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza left. and trainer

American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza left. and trainer Bob Baffert sitting with their horse during a TV interview outside barn1 at Belmont Park Race Track in Elmont June 7, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

American Pharoah's next race could be the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The Triple Crown winner's owner, Ahmed Zayat, tweeted Thursday that "Right now Saratoga is in the lead. Ahead of Haskell."

This comes as a surprise after Zayat indicated last Saturday that his superstar would run next in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park, saying, "The handwriting is on the wall."

Apparently, it's in pencil, because now the 11/4-mile Travers on Aug. 29 is in the picture.

A New York Racing Association source said that NYRA CEO and president Chris Kay and director of racing Martin Panza made their pitch for the $1.25-million Travers to Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert on the evening of June 6, shortly after the colt's 51/2-length triumph in the Belmont Stakes.

Zayat has said Baffert would make the final decision. The trainer has said he would "go with his gut" and not make any long-range plans until he sees how American Pharoah rebounds from racing four times in only eight weeks. If he didn't return until the Travers, it would give the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years an extra four weeks of rest.

Monmouth Park president Bob Kulina told Newsday on Friday that he had spoken to Baffert that day, and that the trainer said the Haskell was still an option and that no definite plans had been made.

"We'll see how it plays out," Kulina said. "I think it's a question of how many starts do you want to make before the [Oct. 31] Breeders' Cup Classic. Is it two or is it three?

"The Haskell is four weeks before the Travers, and I don't think you run 1¼ miles without a prep. Between the Haskell and the Classic you have the Pennsylvania Derby [Sept. 19] and the Jockey Club Gold Cup [Oct. 3]. I think the horse decides how you get to the Classic."

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