For all you Thoroughbred racing aficionados celebrating the arrival of the Triple Crown winner to Keeneland for this weekend's Breeders' Cup, you do know American Pharoah got beat last time out, right?
You remember Keen Ice, right?
You remember the horse that kept tracking Pharoah all spring and summer until finally at the Travers, in the so-called "Graveyard of Champions," Keen Ice knocked off the heralded holder of the crown?More Breeders' Cup coverage daily
You wouldn't know that from the morning-line odds for Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, which put American Pharoah at 6-5, Beholder at 3-1, Tonalist and Honor Code at 6-1 and Keen Ice as fifth choice in the 10-horse field at 12-1.
"I thought the odds were a little high," Keen Ice's trainer, Dale Romans, admitted Wednesday morning as the rain continued to fall on the barns off Rice Road. "He needs to back it up to get their confidence; I understand that."
Don't get Romans wrong. The 49-year-old trainer, based in Louisville, is a Pharoah fan. He's friends with Pharoah's trainer, Bob Baffert. All that is what made that Aug. 29 win at Saratoga probably the highlight of his training career.
"I've won the Dubai World Cup, three Breeders' Cup races, 30-something Grade I's, all fabulous races," Romans said. "Hopefully, I'll win those races again, but it had been 40 years since a Triple Crown winner had gotten beat. At Saratoga, that was history, by far the biggest victory of my career."
Romans' only regret was that his good friend Allen Jerkens was not there to see it. Jerkens, who trained Onion to his upset win over Triple Crown champion Secretariat in 1973, died in March at age 85.
"I wish he had been here to see it," Romans said, "because he got the nickname of 'Giant Killer' by knocking off horses like Secretariat."
The Travers was an emotional win, Romans said. It also was surprising — not that Keen Ice won the race, but the way the fans reacted to the win.
"I thought the New York crowd would be booing us for beating the people's horse," Romans said. "But I think all sportsmen respected the performance and they cheered us all the way back."
Now, can Keen Ice come back and do it again in the Classic? Jerry Crawford, leader of Keen Ice's ownership group, Donegal Racing, thinks so. Crawford recently declared that Keen Ice is "the fastest, best-bred 3-year-old in the world today."
Bought at the Keene land September Yearling Sale for $120,000, the son of Curlin out of Medomak by Awesome Again owned just a mere maiden win before knocking off Pharoah in the Travers.
Yet Keen Ice had improved throughout his 3-year-old campaign. He ran third in the Risen Star and fourth in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds leading up to the Kentucky Derby, where he came home seventh.
After a month layoff, Keen Ice finished third in the Belmont, then a surging second in the Haskell behind American Pharoah at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2, a little more than three weeks before the Travers.
"Keen Ice made drastic improvement in the Haskell," Romans said, mentioning that the horse's temperament changed.
"He was a 7-foot seventh-grader who was trying to play basketball and was tripping over the free throw line. Now he's an NBA player. He's gone from being a little cocky and goofy to being arrogant. And that's what you want to see when they get ready to turn into a 4-year-old and the little bull becomes a big bull."
Even if perhaps the oddsmakers aren't as bullish on his chances come Saturday?
"There are a lot of horses to beat besides American Pharoah," Romans said. "I think Tonalist is a good horse. The filly (Beholder) is a superstar. You've got to remember that Keen Ice and Pharoah have only been running against 3-year-olds. We're stepping up and taking on the next generation.
"There's a lot of good horses in the race. But I think we have a very good chance to win."