Let me be clear .. . Keen Ice won the Travers on Saturday and that is a good thing for thoroughbred racing. Yes, I said it . . .being an unabashed American Pharoah fan does not diminish my respect and understanding for Keen Ice, Donegal Racing, Dale Romans and Javier Castellano.
American Pharoah does not have to go undefeated to deserve the accolades he has earned. He is the Triple Crown Champion. He is as Dale Romans even said, America’s horse. To see 15,000 people watch him jog around the track twice on Friday was a sight I haven’t seen in 40 years of being around horse racing. I don’t know that i will ever see it again frankly.
There are many reasons why American Pharoah lost. Some theories range from the absurd (jetlag) to the sensible ( long campaign wore him out). The fact remains, the Bafferts and the Zayats have done what they said they would do; campaign the Triple Crown champion in a manner where the most people could have the opportunity to see him. That does nothing to diminish the horse’s championship year. How many Superbowl Champions have gone undefeated? None since 1972 a longer period of time than Triple Crown winners. How many baseball teams go undefeated? Nope didn’t think so. So why should a loss in a major race to a worthy competitor diminish American Pharoah’s successes? It absolutely shouldn’t.
What it should show is horse racing is competitive. The race is run for a reason, to show what horse can win going a set distance on a given day. Keen Ice was the better horse and Javier Castellano was the better jockey on Saturday. Would the result have been different had Victor Espinosa rode a race on the dirt track before the Travers. It’s like putting on a green for the first time you don’t know the true break without experience and Javier had it, Victor didn’t.
Let’s hope we can see a rematch soon . . would be great to see Beholder, American Pharoah and Keen Ice in the Breeders Cup Classic.