09/03/2015 9:16AM

American Pharoah points to Breeders' Cup Classic

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Justin N. Lane
American Pharoah will remain in training and target the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

DEL MAR, Calif. – With the belief that American Pharoah “deserves the chance to be in the sport’s premier year-end event,” his owner and breeder, Ahmed Zayat, confirmed Thursday that American Pharoah would remain in training and point to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, mirroring the comments trainer Bob Baffert made 48 hours earlier.

While Baffert came around sooner that Zayat, the final call was, ultimately, up to Zayat, who in the immediate aftermath of American Pharoah’s loss in the Travers Stakes last Saturday at Saratoga said he was leaning “60-40” toward retirement.

Zayat on Thursday said he had lengthy discussions with Baffert, his son Justin Zayat – who manages his racing stable – assistant trainer Jim Barnes, and jockey Victor Espinoza over the past several days, most notably a four-hour powwow with Baffert on Tuesday afternoon.

“I have discussed all aspects of American Pharoah’s race last Saturday in the Travers – and his condition since the race – with our whole team and have decided American Pharoah deserves another chance, so we are pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Zayat said Thursday morning.

“I am very confident in my decision. Not a moment has gone by since the race on Saturday when I have not thought about this decision. My initial concern right after the race was about American Pharoah’s condition, because he did not run his ‘A’ race. He has come out of the race in great shape. And after examining all the evidence and talking it over with our team – Bob Baffert, my son Justin, Jimmy Barnes, and Victor Espinoza – I believe there were a combination of factors that prevented American Pharoah from running his absolute best on Saturday. I have every confidence that he can run to his best again, and he deserves the chance to do so.

“I am very confident that this is the right decision for American Pharoah. He loves to race. He has provided my family, racing fans, and general sports fans with great thrills this year. He won the Triple Crown earlier this year, and he deserves the chance to be in the sport’s premier year-end event.”

The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run Oct. 31 at Keeneland. That will be American Pharoah’s final race before he goes to stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

American Pharoah is currently at Del Mar, where he has been based all summer for training before and after starts in the Haskell at Monmouth and the Travers. He is scheduled to go to Santa Anita next Tuesday, the day after Del Mar’s meeting ends.

However, Zayat said he had discussed with Baffert the possibility of sending American Pharoah to Churchill Downs in the next fortnight to do his training there in advance of the Breeders’ Cup. While that is not a finalized plan, it is definitely under serious consideration.

American Pharoah was based at Churchill Downs following his win in the Arkansas Derby in April and trained there for nearly two months in advance of his wins in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, which made him the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner.