07/29/2015 5:39PM

Haskell purse increased to $1.75 million; Pharoah arrives

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah arrives at Atlantic City International Airport before being vanned to Monmouth Park on Wednesday.

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Late Wednesday afternoon, shortly before Triple Crown winner American Pharoah arrived at Monmouth Park, track management raised the purse of Sunday's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational from $1 million to $1.75 million.

The purse increase comes less than 24 hours before entries were to be taken for the Haskell. There are four stakes for 3-year-olds in the East this week, and the competition for horses has been intense.

The $100,000 Curlin Stakes will be run Friday at Saratoga. On Saturday, the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy will be run at Saratoga and the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby will be run at Mountaineer. On Sunday, American Pharoah tops the Haskell. All four stakes are at 1 1/8 miles.

Some horsemen have been on the fence regarding which race to choose. The hope of Monmouth management is that the extra $750,000 in purse money for the Haskell will help them make up their minds.

"It's a great purse, and hopefully we get an extra horse or two," said Mike Dempsey, the director of racing at Monmouth Park.

Dempsey said he had received a commitment from trainer Rick Violette to run Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull stakes winner Upstart in the Haskell. Upstart was entered Wednesday morning in the Jim Dandy.

Track president Bob Kulina said increasing the value of the Haskell had been in the works for some time.

"American Pharoah is a great horse, and he certainly deserves the money," Kulina said. "We decided that instead of increasing the appearance fees that we would raise the purse of the race so that all of the participants have a chance to share in the added money."

The conditions of the Haskell reward both the owner and trainer of a Triple Crown race winner with a bonus of $25,000. Because American Pharoah swept the three-race series, trainer Bob Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat each will receive $75,000.

The purse of the Haskell has at times been raised to draw a particular horse. In 2001, the purse was $1.5 million when Point Given won. In 2009, when the filly Rachel Alexandra won, the purse was $1.25 million.

With the purse increase, this year’s Haskell will be the richest non-Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred race ever run in New Jersey.

American Pharoah arrives

American Pharoah arrived on the Monmouth Park backstretch at 4:05 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday after a long day of travel from Del Mar.
Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Baffert, walked American Pharoah off the van and took him for two laps in front of several dozen media representatives on hand for his arrival.

American Pharoah was extremely calm before the crowd. He took a drink of water and then walked several laps around the shed row before settling into his stall. American Pharoah is staying in the barn of local horseman Kelly Breen.

Barnes said they had left Del Mar around 1:30 a.m. Pacific the night before and had vanned to the airport in Ontario, Calif. The plane stopped in Lexington, Ky., to refuel and drop off a few horses before proceeding to Atlantic City International Airport, where it landed at 2:09 p.m. Eastern.

American Pharoah then vanned to Monmouth, arriving with a police escort.

"American Pharoah is a professional when he ships, and he makes it easy on us," Barnes said.

Barnes said American Pharoah likely will jog a mile at Monmouth on Thursday and gallop Friday and Saturday.

The weather in New Jersey has been hot, and temperatures were in the low 90s on Wednesday. The weather is supposed to break on Thursday night and be cooler for the weekend.

Barnes did not think the weather would be a problem for American Pharoah.

"We'll just make sure he has plenty of fluids," Barnes said. "We'll give him a few baths and have lots of fans."

During the Triple Crown, American Pharoah was accompanied on his journeys by Baffert's stable pony Smokey, but that was not the case for this trip.

"Smokey got a little vacation after the Triple Crown," Barnes said. "I think he's residing in our Los Alamitos stable right now."