DEL MAR, Calif. >> American Pharoah arrived at Del Mar Race Track on Tuesday to begin training for next month’s Haskell Invitational in New Jersey.
The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years even accomplished another rarity on his journey down from Santa Anita — avoiding summer traffic on the Los Angeles-area freeways.
"Well we did leave at 4 a.m.," said Jimmy Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s chief assistant.
American Pharaoh made the roughly 100-mile journey early in the morning, settled in and then jogged around the track in a morning workout that drew a large media contingent.
"It’s like having a rock star here," said Joe Harper, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO. "Otherwise we wouldn’t have 14 cameras here."
American Pharoah isn’t expected to race at Del Mar, with its summer season starting on Thursday. Instead, the 3-year-old colt will train at the seaside oval in preparation for the Haskell on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park. He’ll return to Del Mar after the Haskell.
Del Mar hopes Baffert, who arrives on Thursday, will add the track’s $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 30 to the itinerary of the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown.
"Those are all Bob’s decisions," Barnes said. "But I wouldn’t think so."
It’s not expected that American Pharaoh will compete against older horses until October’s Breeder’s Cup.
But like the estimated 2,000 other horses boarded at Del Mar, American Pharoah is enjoying the beach life.
"The horses love it down here," Barnes said, as he distributed peeled baby carrots to American Pharoah. "It’s a little cooler."
American Pharoah is familiar with Del Mar, after winning its Grade I Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds last year.
"I remember saying to Bob, ‘That is a really good looking horse,’" Harper said. ‘Bob said, "It could be the one.’ It was the one all right."
Fans can watch American Pharoah train each morning, with three of the sessions being timed workouts.
"It’s terrific that he is here and it really is special," Harper said.
While there are no guarantees American Pharoah will race at Del Mar, his presence rivaled the excitement of 1996 when Cigar attempted to break Citation’s mark of 16 straight wins. But Dare And Go upset Cigar in the Pacific Classic, before a record crowd of 44,181.
"To have a Triple Crown winner is really a positive," Harper said. "It sheds a positive light on our sport. A lot of smart people in our game speculated there would never be another one and American Pharoah proved them wrong."