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American Pharoah: How far can one horse take the sport?

American Pharoah: How far can one horse take the sport?Industry fans and advocates have been waiting 37 years to prove an axiom loosely applied in the world of fantasy: That a Triple Crown winner will have a major impact on the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing. Sunday at Monmouth, here’s your chance. 

The racing return of American Pharoah in the Haskell Invitational finally calls the bluff of all those critics who claimed racing’s demise had more to do with racing than business. Chicken Littles be warned; it’s time to turn over your cards. 

The measurable will be thrown out in the most positive of lights. Attendance and handle at Monmouth Park absolutely will rise. Last year’s crowd of 35,093 will be blown out of the adjacent Atlantic Ocean and rightly so (that figure was down about 1,200 from 2013). Monmouth does a great job with Haskell Day historically as I’ve attended a half-dozen or so. Excellent management, well-conceived. And making a three-day Pharoah Phest this year will only grow the anticipation over the weekend.

Handle was $17.6 million for Haskell Day in 2008 to set the track’s all-time record when Big Brown was pennies on the dollar as the favorite. So, don’t worry about a 1-to-9 shot killing the total day’s handle. And I was one of 53,638 in attendance to see Funny Cide in the 2003 Haskell, a record crowd. Of course, Peace Rules upset the hopes of those looking to see the Derby-Preakness winner that day. Not all wondrous days in sports end in smiling faces. 

Of course, this one should. 

There’s no reason American Pharoah won’t tackle his Haskell foes. Frankly there’s not much expected to line up against him. Competitive Edge has been up and down like the Dow Jones and Keen Ice figures to be too slow to catch up over a speed-friendly, souped-to-the-nines Haskell Day main track that we anticipate as per usual on this day. The same-weekend Jim Dandy and West Virginia Derby take away depth. Consider even the $750,000 purse at Mountaineer means the WV Derby winner makes more than twice what the Haskell runner-up would. 

Saturday’s Haskell will be the fifth of 10 telecasts on the NBC family of networks in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series and the Nielsen ratings will be very interesting to see how the sport “points” against other mainstream sports the same day. That will be the true indicator of how much the Triple Crown winner impacts the sport from a mainstream standpoint. It’s not easy to get people to sit around the TV on a Sunday in the summer, but the best feet will be forward here as the primary NBC channel, not the cable sports network, will present the Haskell from 5-6 pm ET. 

(Source: Jeremy Plonk,


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