We're making memories here, people.
That's what this is all about, this first Breeders' Cup at Keeneland Race Course, this first occasion of a Triple Crown winner participating in Thoroughbred racing's premier event. Lexington's first Cup is American Pharoah's last race.
So how will Pharoah be remembered?
What will be his legacy?
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Right or wrong, good or bad, Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic will have much to do with how we will end up feeling and thinking about all that and more when it comes to the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years.
"I think it would be inevitable for American Pharoah's current image to be slightly reduced if he were to be beaten in the Classic," said Ed Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the author of 20 books on Thoroughbred racing. "That would mean he ended his career with consecutive losses. Over time, though, I imagine that being a Triple Crown winner will restore the aura that he had after the Belmont."
We are all about the precious present, however. Pharoah's connections have expressed hope the champion will win his final race not for how he'll be rated against the greats, but how he'll be remembered by his fans.
"I think it's important for him, to see him go out with a win because I'm his caretaker, I'm like his father," said trainer Bob Baffert after Pharoah's gallop on the Keeneland training track Thursday morning. "I'll feel more pressure for him. This is for Pharoah. This isn't for Baffert, his trainer or whatever."
"We are biased," said owner Ahmed Zayat. "Pharoah is Pharoah. We want him to win."
A Pharoah win would give the champion a Grade I victory over older horses and his second Grade I win since the Triple Crown. By winning the Haskell on Aug. 2, Pharoah accomplished what the three Triple Crown winners of the 1970s — Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Affirmed in 1978 — could not, win a Grade I on the dirt as a 3-year-old after capturing the crown.
Secretariat lost to Onion. Secretariat lost to Prove Out. And Secretariat is the horse by which all other horses are judged. Secretariat is the measuring stick.
Before Secretariat, Citation was the gold standard. The 1948 Triple Crown champion won 16 consecutive races. He also lost 13 of 45 starts. That was a different time. Between the Preakness and the Belmont, Citation won the Jersey Stakes by 11 lengths.
"The Triple Crown is a complicated phenomenon," Bowen said. "We treat it as the ultimate, but then when it is won we want something more. No Triple Crown winner has ever been retired intentionally after the Belmont. Interestingly, several Triple Crown winners have had setbacks after the Crown and risked retirement with somewhat tarnished reputations."
Assault, the 1946 Triple Crown winner, lost six straight races before recovering to post a strong finish to his 3-year-old season and race well at 4. After losing five straight races bridging ages age 3 and 4, 1978 crown champion Affirmed finished his career with seven straight wins.
"Seattle Slew was unbeaten through the (1977) Triple Crown and then finished fourth in the Swaps and did not race again at 3," Bowen said. "Had he been retired at that point his image would probably have been a cut below what it was after his major wins at 4."
During his Triple Crown run, Pharoah was compared most to Slew. The two greats shared a similar racing style and popularity. One of Seattle Slew's post-crown wins came over Affirmed in the first head-to-head meeting of Triple Crown champions. Now Pharoah is the first Triple Crown champion in the Breeders' Cup.
"American Pharoah will not have the opportunity to recover any potential image loss were he to lose on Saturday," Bowen said. "But, again, I would think that image would recover over time."
Saturday, however, the time is now. Safe to say, the general public wants its final memory of American Pharoah on a racetrack to duplicate the feeling it had watching him become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
They want the memory of seeing him go out on top.