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American Pharoah Faces New Track, Travel Concerns in Travers

American Pharoah Faces New Track, Travel Concerns in Travers: Racing fans know American Pharoah stands on top of the world as America’s best dirt horse, with a small window for the mare Beholder to prove otherwise. Strange things happen in this sport though, and the time for American Pharoah to lose can come this weekend if a couple of factors, including surface and travel fatigue, help turn the tide in favor of other contenders.

American Pharoah Travers Stakes 2015

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (with Martin Garcia aboard) works seven furlongs in 1:23.20 Sunday morning, August 23, 2015 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, CA. in preperation for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in New York on Saturday, August 29, 2015. Photo: Benoit

American Pharoah is entered in the Travers Stakes (GI) at Saratoga Race Course this Saturday. As usual for the race, the three-year-old horses will run 10 furlongs around the quirky dirt surface. Although some confusion existed on whether trainer Bob Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat were really taking American Pharoah east again, they finally decided to give the official thumbs up last Sunday after a dazzling Del Mar workout.

For American Pharoah to record the first blemish of his season, the track needs to be either tiring or biased. For example, Baffert also trains Bayern, who won last year’s Haskell (GI) and Pennsylvania Derby (GII) over speed-friendly surfaces. When Bayern dropped like a rock after setting the Travers pace, a couple of handicappers noted a dead rail. American Pharoah does not require the lead, but breaks from the second post position. It is possible the Triple Crown winner might become stuck in an unfavorable position inside.

Fatigue is a factor to consider too. American Pharoah has not traveled lightly. While his base is in California with Baffert, the colt made trips to Oaklawn Park, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Belmont Park and Monmouth Park all in one racing season. He just flew east to Monmouth for the Haskell earlier this month, returned to Del Mar, and now is going east again to New York for the Travers. While workouts indicate the horse remains in top shape, at some point the high flyer miles may catch up.

The other contenders still hold some room to improve, and if someone beats American Pharoah, the improvement must come now. One interesting challenger is Smart Transition, a John Shirreffs-trained colt with an interesting pedigree as a son of multiple-stakes winner Zardana, who surprised Rachel Alexandra to start off her 2010 season. If Smart Transition proves victorious over American Pharoah, a few fans may pass out from shock.

Smart Transition recently worked a couple of bullets in the morning. Going into the Curlin Stakes a few weeks ago, the colt worked around the slow to average range. Morning times are not the biggest deal, especially since most handicappers cannot really see what is going on. Still, one cannot help but think a jump in effort is coming. In the hypothetical event of a dead rail, Smart Transition avoids such a scenario with a far outside post position.

In addition, the popular Texas Red makes his next Saratoga start after taking the Jim Dandy (GII) earlier in the meet. One of the winter-book favorites for the Kentucky Derby (GI), Texas Red dealt with a spring setback, before reemerging at Belmont Park for the Dwyer (GII) and finishing second. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother Kent, Texas Red prefers to make a closing move in the stretch to win his races. The son of Afleet Alex projects to pick off tired horses late and contend for the victory.

Frosted and Keen Ice make appearances as well. If anything strange with American Pharoah occurs, either of them offer enough talent to win. But, they had several chances against American Pharoah by now and trying a different contender seems more logical.

Several fans are set on betting American Pharoah to win, no matter the odds. At least, casual observers and those new to racing feel more “connected” to the race with any sort of wager, even on American Pharoah. Looking at this from a long-term perspective, whatever profit is earned from betting American Pharoah is diluted by the number of people that blindly picked him. In any case, enjoy the “Midsummer Derby” and good luck to American Pharoah.

Travers Stakes 2015 Odds & Post Positions
1 Upstart 15-1
2 American Pharoah 1-5
3 Mid Ocean 50-1
4 Texas Red 8-1
5 Frammento 30-1
6 Frosted 6-1
7 Keen Ice 12-1
8 Tale of Verve 30-1
9 King of New York 50-1
10 Smart Transition 20-1