Pharoah looks good after loss; no decision on racing plans

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) They were waiting for their horse, ready to take pictures with cellphones and ready to feed him snacks.

On the morning after a startling upset at the Travers Stakes, a small gathering of fans visited racing’s biggest celebrity. This group on Sunday morning was considerably smaller than the throng of 15,000 that watched American Pharoah take a routine gallop two days earlier.

Still, the Triple Crown winner’s defeat at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday didn’t diminish his legacy or appeal – not in the eyes of the fans and not in the eyes of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who led his prized colt out to be petted and fed carrots before he was sent back to his stall.

“I’m happy with the way he looked today. I could tell he’s not upset,” Baffert said. “You could see when he was out here, he was himself. He was his sweet self.”

American Pharoah had not lost since his career debut last August at Del Mar. Since then, the bay Pioneerof the Nile colt had reeled off eight straight wins, seven of them in Grade 1 races, including his historic sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont this spring.

After a short break, American Pharoah returned with a victory in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park. Though owner Ahmed Zayat was intent on the Travers, Baffert preferred to wait until the final workout Aug. 23 before committing to the race.

“If I had to do it again, I would have brought him here. I’m glad I brought him. I think racing needed something like this,” Baffert said. “It’s amazing, what he’s done for racing. Everybody in town afterward, when they saw me they said, `We’re sorry. We feel so bad for you, Bob, but thanks for bringing that horse.’ It almost ended well. We almost pulled it off.”

In the Travers, his first try at 1 1/4 miles since the Derby, American Pharoah was pressed from the gate to the top of the stretch by Frosted before getting clear. But he but didn’t have enough left to hold off late-running Keen Ice.

The question now is when, or if, American Pharoah will run again. Zayat said immediately following the Travers the horse would be retired at the first hint of regression. Baffert said he had not seen any sign of that and would prefer to train up to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland, his last scheduled start before going to stud.

“He looks great today,” Baffert said. “He could come back and freshen up and run. I don’t think he tailed off; I think he just didn’t bring his `A’ game. If you look at him, he still looks pretty healthy. He doesn’t look like a tired horse.”

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.