Someone finally figured out how to cool off Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
The hottest horse in the land dueled with Frosted early and couldn’t hold off 16-1 Keen Ice late and lost the 146th Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course before a sellout crowd of 50,000 on Saturday.
Many in the crowd came to the track dressed in American Pharoah gear, including Egyptian pharaoh headdresses, but the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 couldn’t quite hold up his end, succumbing to Keen Ice’s late charge inside the sixteenth pole to lose by three-quarters of a length.
As disappointed as most of the crowd and connections for American Pharoah were over the loss, this Travers provided one of the most rousing spectacles the track has seen in years.
About 15,000 turned out just to watch American Pharoah in a routine gallop on Friday morning, and the apron in front of the track was jammed on Saturday with thousands who wanted to see a Triple Crown winner, a 1-5 favorite in the 10-horse field, run in a $1.6 million race.
“He was doing it for racing,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “That’s why he [owner Ahmed Zayat] brought him up here. We feel bad for the horse, because he’s been so good to us and running hard, and we see him get beat. It’s like watching your kid get beat in a game or something, so we’re very emotional right now.”
Frosted, ridden by Jose Lezcano, made American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza work hard during the early stages of the race and down the backstretch.
American Pharoah took the lead at the top of the stretch, but by the time he got to the sixteenth pole near the finish, he was leg-weary, giving Keen Ice and Javier Castellano an opportunity to catch him before the wire.
“Pharoah is a fabulous, fabulous horse, and I hope the Zayats are thankful for what he’s done and not disappointed for what happened today,” Keen Ice’s trainer Dale Romans said.
“I’m very proud of American Pharoah,” Zayat said. “I’m disappointed for the fans. I’m heartbroken, but I would not trade a minute of pleasure that he gave me, my family and the sport. Not a second.”
Whirlaway (1941) remains the only one of 12 Triple Crown winners to have won the Travers as well.
In anticipation of American Pharoah’s appearance, the New York Racing Association capped attendance at 50,000 to keep the crowd size from getting unwieldy.