Keen Ice defeats American Pharoah in Travers upset Sun, 30 Aug 2015
Saratoga is nicknamed ‘the graveyard of champions’, and it claimed another victim this morning as superstar Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was run down inside the last 100 metres of the Gr. 1 Travers Stakes by the outsider Keen Ice.
Just over a week after the spectacular Derby winner Golden Horn lost his unbeaten record in a 50-to-one upset by Arabian Queen in the Juddmonte International at York, that result has been matched by a surprise of similar magnitude on the other side of the Atlantic.
American Pharoah broke alertly from the starting gate and quickly assumed his customary role of leader, but he was pressured all the way by Frosted and never got any respite.
Frosted continued to breathe down American Pharoah’s neck as the pair raced down the back straight more than four lengths ahead of the remainder of the field, and the 50,000-strong crowd began to sense an upset as Frosted clearly headed American Pharoah at the top of the stretch.
Showing the determination, grit and quality that has made him a champion, American Pharoah fought back and gradually shook free of Frosted down the long Saratoga straight.
But then Keen Ice charged down the extreme outside in a late challenge American Pharoah never saw coming, and he had no time to react as Keen Ice swept past to victory.
The 10 furlongs (2000 metres) were run in 2:01.52, the 14th fastest time recorded in the 146-year history of the race and the quickest since Point Given ran 2:01.40 in 2001.
A bay colt by Curlin out of the Awesome Again mare Medomak, Keen Ice has now had 11 starts for two wins, a second, three thirds and more than US$1 million in prize-money. He had been defeated by American Pharoah in his previous three races, running seventh in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Belmont Stakes and second in the Haskell Invitational. He was ridden today by Javier Castellano for Kentucky trainer Dale Romans.
“Javier rode him perfectly,” Romans said. “Turning for home you could tell he was going to get him.
“I want to thank Saratoga for capping the crowd at 50,000 and limiting the number of people who are going to boo my horse!”
American Pharoah was the fourth Triple Crown winner to attempt to add the Travers Stakes, and only one has been successful - Whirlaway in 1941. Gallant Fox in 1930, Affirmed in 1978 and American Pharoah in 2015 have all finished second, with Affirmed crossing the line in first place before being relegated for causing interference.
The ‘graveyard of champions’ nickname also stems from the fact that Man o’War suffered the only defeat of his career at the track, beaten by a horse called Upset in 1919, and Secretariat had his colours lowered by Onion in 1973.
American Pharoah’s trainer Bob Baffert said it simply wasn’t the Pioneerof The Nile colt’s day.
“He just didn’t bring his A-game today,” he said. “He got beat, we just have to suck it up. He tried hard. I feel bad for the horse getting beat like that.
“He’s had a lot of mileage and he’s had tough races. He went to Arkansas twice, and then he went to Kentucky, Maryland, back to Kentucky, New York, back to Kentucky, back to California, New Jersey, back to California and back to New York. I mean, you don't see a horse do that. You have to be really special to do that.”
There was a suggestion that American Pharoah may be retired after today’s shock defeat.
“My gut feeling is to retire him,” owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat said.