American Pharoah wins final race, claiming Breeders’ Cup Classic and Grand Slam


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Triple Crown champion American Pharoah took charge out of the gate, winning the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 1/2 lengths Saturday in his final race before retirement.

The 3-year-old colt ran 1 1/4 miles in a track-record 2:00.07 as the sentimental 3-5 favorite among the crowd of 50,155 at Keeneland. Fans stood 20-deep all along the rail, cheering and snapping cellphone photos of the superstar horse and jockey Victor Espinoza.

Except American Pharoah didn’t hear them. He wears ear plugs to muffle any sounds that might startle him.

“This was for Pharoah,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We wanted him to go out the champion he is.”

He paid $3.40, $3 and $2.40.

Effinex, a 33-1 shot, returned $14.20 and $6.60. Honor Code was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.

American Pharoah took on seven rivals after Smooth Roller and champion mare Beholder dropped out. Beholder had the speed and the class to potentially make the race a contest, but a lung ailment sidelined her on Thursday.

It probably didn’t matter how many faced American Pharoah on a cloudy, cool day in the cradle of American horse country.

He smashed the old track record of 2:05.36 by more than five seconds.

It was a feel-good moment for a sport that has been battered and bruised – all the troubles of declining attendance and drug controversies were wiped away in two magical minutes.

“It’s a horse racing fairy tale and I just happen to be in it,” Baffert said.

After easing across the finish line, Espinoza took the colt far up the first turn before slowly walking past the grandstand to the winner’s circle, accompanied by raucous cheers all the way. The champion even had his own military escort walk him back to his barn.

The fans knew they had just witnessed history, the final chapter in a story that may never be repeated.

American Pharoah put an exclamation point on a brilliant career in which he lost just twice – in his debut and again in the Travers on Aug. 29.

Keen Ice, who vanquished him at Saratoga, finished fourth in the Classic. Tonalist, the 2014 Belmont winner, was fifth, followed by Hard Aces, Frosted and Ireland-bred Gleneagles.

Frosted unexpectedly pressed American Pharoah on the lead in the Travers, leaving him vulnerable to the rally by Keen Ice.

This time, no one could keep up with the champ.

“It’s a lot of pressure to train a horse like this because I didn’t want to let the horse down and I didn’t want to let the fans down,” Baffert said. “I’m just so proud of him; it’s like watching my child out there.”

American Pharoah won nine of his 11 career starts, including the first sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years this spring. He earned a total of $8,650,300 for Ahmed Zayat, the Egyptian-born owner who chose to keep his popular horse in training so fans could see him run.

“We wanted him to go out as a winner,” Zayat said. “He is a winner.”

Next up for American Pharoah is a new career as a breeding stallion at a farm in Kentucky bluegrass country near Keeneland.

The colt became the first horse to win the Triple Crown and the Classic in the same year, and the only one to have such a chance since the Breeders’ Cup didn’t begin until 1984.

Roca Rojo wins Belmont’s Athenia Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths

Javier Castellano celebrates after riding Cathryn Sophia to victory in the 142nd running of the Kentucky Oaks horse race at Churchill Downs Friday, May 6, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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NEW YORK — Roca Rojo drew off to a 3 1/4-length victory Sunday in the $200,000 Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf at Belmont Park.

The 4-year-old from Ireland trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Javier Castellano kicked home from sixth at the top of the stretch to secure her first stakes victory. It was her fifth win in six career starts, improving her Belmont record to 3 for 3.

“It was impressive the way she did it today,” Castellano said. “Everything worked out perfect. We were able to sit off the pace and the ground was a little soft, and she liked that.”

Castellano, who turned 39 on Sunday, celebrated with three victories.

The time was 1:43.20 for 1 1/16 miles over the course rated soft. Roca Rojo paid $10.20, $5 and $3.70.

Stormy Victoria also finished strongly, coming from ninth to get second. She returned $6.70 and $5.

Mexican Gold, also trained by Brown, got third and paid $3.70 to show.

Favorite American Gal wins Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — American Gal won the $70,000 Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 6 1/2 lengths Sunday at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, American Gal ran six furlongs in 1:10.46 and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10 as the overwhelming 1-9 favorite.

Woot Woot returned $2.80 and $2.10, while Bernina Star was another half-length back in third and paid $2.10 to show.

American Gal had been idle since earning her first career victory at Del Mar on Aug. 14.

“She finished better today than in her last race,” Bejarano said. “Last time, she was head and head, but she showed more finish today, more kick.”

With a total show pool of $345,356, American Gal accounted for $315,450 of it, resulting in a minus show pool of $63,891.