For the first time since his maiden race, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah failed to cross the wire first after being edged out by Keen Ice during yesterday’s running of the 146th Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Although he fought valiantly he simply didn’t have enough gas left to fend off the late challenge deep into the stretch and came in second by ¾ of a length. Keen Ice (a son of 2-time Horse of the Year Curlin) ran the 1-1/4 mile race on a fast track in 2:01.57 under the masterful ride by jockey Javier Castellano, who was on him for the first time due to a prior commitment by Kent Desormeaux to ride rival Texas Red. Texas Red, who went off as the 2nd favorite in the Travers at 5-1 is trained by Desormeaux’s brother Keith, and ended up 5th, 6-1/4 lengths behind Upstart
In the meantime, there was a lot of speculation as to why Pharoah lost, including Satatoga’s reputation for being “the Graveyard of Champions,” where even the mighty Secretariat was beaten by Onion back in 1973, to the fact that he was tired from making 3 cross-country trips in the last month from California to New Jersey, where he won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park (ahead of Keen Ice), back to San Diego, and then again to New York for the Travers. In fact, Baffert even admitted that the hot, humid weather during the Haskell took a lot out of him, even though he won easily and seemed to work out brilliantly over the past week.
Then, there is the undisputable fact that American Pharoah was hard pressed by Frosted throughout the first 6-furlongs by Frosted, who led him for a brief moment in the upper stretch (and reportedly made contact with him when Pharoah was along the rail), before finally being shaken off. Although Pharoah quickly regained the lead as he charged for the wire, Keen Ice had more punch where it counted and came on to claim only his 2nd victory in 11 starts. Frosted came in 3rd.
Only one Triple Crown winner, Whirlaway, was able to take the Travers as well back in 1941. The sad part, however, is that it looks as though the Travers will now be the last race ever run by Pharoah, after owner Ahmed Zayat stated that he thinks it may be the right time to retire him within 15 minutes after the finish. Although the final decision has not been made, most people speculate that Baffert will end up agreeing that it is “time to say good-bye.” Pharoah is scheduled to begin stud duties at Ashford Stud in Versailles, KY next year under the breeding ownership of Coolmore International, the most powerful racing and breeding conglomerate in the world.