American Pharoah was greeted by a large crowd at Coolmore's Ashford Stud on Monday morning. (Photos by Melissa Bauer-Herzog)
Arriving a little after 8:30 a.m. at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., American Pharoah traveled the 11 miles from Keeneland to the farm with a police escort and trainer Bob Baffert and his crew in tow.
The now-retired colt was greeted by multiple Ashford Stud employees and a small group of media as he unloaded at the farm’s stallion complex and took it all in stride with his trademark calm temperament, only looking around for a few seconds after being led off the van by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes. From there, American Pharoah was led through the breeding shed and to the main stallion barn where his stall was waiting for him.
Like many times as a racehorse, American Pharoah was then led out to greet those waiting for him and calmly posed for the cameras recording the newest step in his life. American Pharoah closed out a career that saw him win the first Triple Crown in 37 years by running away with the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday night.
“I’d say his performance was just exceptional … he blew everyone away,” said Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier. “He finished up racing the way he deserved to. An exceptional racehorse with an exceptional performance on the day and he deserved it.”
Yesterday, American Pharoah met a large group of fans and media for the last time at the track before it was announced that he was headed to Ashford on Monday morning.
AMERICAN PHAROAH ON SUNDAY
But the plan for American Pharoah to go to Ashford has been in the works for over a year, with Coolmore first looking at American Pharoah on Baffert’s advice when he was 2 years old.
“It’s a huge relief and we’re extremely lucky to have the horse,” said Magnier. “In fairness to Bob, from the outset, and a long time ago he was telling us how good this horse was and that we should try and get him and thankfully we got a deal done with the Zayats. They’re very good people and we’re just very lucky that it worked out. He’s just an exceptional horse, everything about him. Bob was saying that he could handle absolutely everything and we’re just very lucky to have him here now. Hopefully we’ll do half as good a job (managing his stallion career) as Bob has (training him).”
Stallion manager Richard Barry, who has been handling Coolmore stallions for 30 years, said that the only stallion arrival he can compare to this one is Cigar’s.
Cigar retired to the farm in late 1996 to much fanfare but for most stallions only Barry, the farm’s general manager Dermot Ryan and possibly another farm manager will stop by to watch his arrival. Barry, who handled American Pharoah during most of the welcoming party, said that this stallion’s arrival was like Christmas arriving early and he was excited to see the colt in the flesh for the first time.
AMERICAN PHAROAH ARRIVES AT ASHFORD
“This was the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on him. There’s no way I can get to the Derby because we’re in the middle of the breeding season and I didn’t get to go to the Breeders’ Cup, I was here. Someone has to babysit the place, me and (pensioned Ashford stallion) Thunder Gulch take care of that, and it’s just the way it is. (American Pharoah) is a magnificent beast, I can’t say enough about him,” Barry said.
“I was running just trying to keep up with him walking, that impressed me a lot. Temperament-wise, a bomb could go off beside him from the looks of things and it wouldn’t affect him. He’s as sound as a bell, great conformation, great attitude, good eye, looks great. It’s a testament to the people that have been taking care of him how well he looks. He’s just a great-looking animal.”
In coming days Thunder Gulch, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont, will play an important part in helping American Pharoah make the transition from racehorse to stallion.
American Pharoah will be turned out in a paddock next to the 23-year-old stallion, who Barry calls a “babysitter.” Unlike other stallions who may take up American Pharoah’s challenges to race, Thunder Gulch will teach him that turn out is instead a time for grazing. Once American Pharoah learns to settle down in the paddock, Barry says the rest of the transition is a pretty easy process.
“(Pharoah will) get into a routine, they get turned out first thing in the morning,” he said. “We’re in here at 6:30 a.m., he’ll get turned out as soon as it’s daylight, brought in before lunch and groomed. (In December,) we have to test breed him just to show him what’s what. We’ll wait then for the (breeding) season to start and he’ll be in that basic routine until the season starts. When the season starts, we’ll breed at 7:30 in the morning, 1:30 in the afternoon, 6 p.m. in the evening if necessary and that will be the routine for the breeding season.”
American Pharoah will be stabled in the old stall of Grand Slam, a top stallion at Ashford before his death in 2012. The Zayats are currently working with Ashford to schedule a “retirement party” for the colt later this year.