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American Pharoah babies emerging on the track

American Pharoah babies emerging on the track

The 2015 Triple Crown winner has been a winner in the sales ring, and is showing some returns on the racetrack, too
American Pharoah babies emerging on the track
A groom shows off an American Pharoah yearling (hip No. 191) on Sunday prior to the Fasig-Tipton sales. She sold for $950,000.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The returns are beginning to trickle in.

A colt won a turf race at Naas, near Dublin, Ireland, on April 13.

A colt who doesn't look anything like his father debuted with a win at Aqueduct on April 19, then was shipped to Europe and won a stakes at Chantilly Racecourse north of Paris.

A filly won a turf race at Saratoga Race Course on July 14.

Not exactly the first bricks on the Triple Crown trail, but they have direct Triple Crown blood, which makes it just a little more interesting when any of the 162 2-year-olds from the first crop of foals sired by American Pharoah races, no matter the conditions or circumstances.

Not a typo -- 162. The second crop, some of whom went through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sales ring on Monday and Tuesday and commanded as high as $950,000, totals a similar number of foals delivered by mares bred to American Pharoah.

He's been busy.

And his babies have begun to get busy, too.

One early observation about the American Pharoah foals was that many of them shared his calm, easy demeanor, but we're to the point in the season now when more stakes races and high-purse maiden races for 2-year-olds start to show up on the schedule. Every time one of the American Pharoahs run, there's a little more scrutiny, and perhaps a little more pressure.

Among the trainers who have at least one American Pharoah son or daughter in his barn is Bob Baffert, who trained him during a 2015 season that included the first Triple Crown since 1978. Like anyone who was enthralled by that run, Baffert is looking forward to getting his Pharoah baby, named Saudi Pharoah, to the racetrack, although a slight temperature kept him in his stall in California Sunday morning.

"Yeah, I like him a lot," Baffert said. "He's pretty nice.

"I think a lot of them, I don't think they're going to be real sprinty-type horses. I think we'll see the better ones in the fall."

Monarch of Egypt was the first American Pharoah baby to hit the track, and he won at Naas Racecourse in Ireland on April 13.

Maven, a chestnut whose coat is far removed from the brown body and black mane and tail of his father, became the first Pharoah to win in North America, when he broke his maiden at Aqueduct on April 19. The betting public sent him off at 2-5, and he won by half a length.

Then trainer Wesley Ward, well-known for sending young horses to race in Europe, shipped Maven to France, where he won the Group 3 Prix du Bois at Chantilly on June 29, American Pharoah's first group stakes winner, before fading from first to 10th in the Group 3 Molecomb in Great Britain on July 31.

An American Pharoah 2-year-old has yet to win a stakes in the U.S., but Sweet Melania became the first to win at Saratoga -- after two thirds on the dirt this spring -- in a turf race opening weekend. Trainer Todd Pletcher said she might show up in the P.G. Johnson on Aug. 29.

Winning a graded stakes will be a taller task for the Pharoah babies.

"She's a filly we got in early, and she seemed precocious," Pletcher said after the July 14 race. "She kind of fooled us a little bit, because I thought she'd be successful sprinting on the dirt. She didn't run badly either time, but she didn't run to our expectations and we got her up here and breezed her on the grass, and wow, she really seemed to take a move forward. That's when we started pointing toward this spot."

American Pharoah never raced on the turf in 11 career starts, but his progeny, for whatever reason, have been raced on it in the early stages of the 2-year-old campaign, including the European shippers.

"The thing I've noticed with the ones we have is they all have very good dispositions, very good minds," Pletcher said. "It's interesting that he's getting a lot of turf runners so far. I'm sure he'll have some success with dirt runners as well."

In the stud book and the sales ring, meanwhile, American Pharoah is still enjoying the afterglow of his Triple Crown.

His initial stud fee was $200,000 in 2016, a number in the upper echelon of North American stallions like War Front, Curlin, Tapit and Medaglia d'Oro -- and astronomical for an unproven sire. Currently, his stud fee is private, but is believed to be in the same neighborhood, while negotiable depending on the quality of the broodmare.

American Pharoah currently is No. 2 in North America among freshman sires, based on purse earnings by their 2-year-olds. Only four horses in the top 25 of that list carry a stud fee of more than $10,000.

"He was a remarkable racehorse, he's off to a remarkable start as a stallion and I hope for the next 15,20 years we're standing here saying that the American Pharoahs had a great sale and that he was a linchpin of the Saratoga marketplace," Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning said Tuesday, after the two-day Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale was complete.

American Pharoah stands at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky, the U.S. arm of Coolmore, the most powerful breeding operation in the world.

Last year, 10 American Pharoah yearlings sold for an average price of $554,500, including one that went for $1 million. This week, six sold for an average of $552,500, topped by a colt who sold for $950,000 on Tuesday.

Of course, his babies will have to produce on the track eventually in order for him to maintain his value as a stallion. No one can take his Triple Crown away, but every sire faces that point in his breeding career when results matter.

"I think you've got to be thrilled to death [by his sales numbers]," Browning said. "They sold as a whole very, very well. He has performed very well. He's come out of the gate with a lot of quality runners, as we all hoped and had our fingers crossed that he would."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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