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January 26, 2016

Behind The Stall Door With: American Pharoah

The most famous face in horse sports. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

American Pharoah transfixed the nation when he brought a 37-year-old Triple Crown drought to a jubilant end last year. Rather than retire him immediately to stud, as is the prevailing wisdom, owner Zayat Stables and trainer, Bob Baffert, sportingly decided to continue to race the extraordinary athlete to the delight of his fans.

Following the Belmont Stakes, there were sold-out crowds at the Haskell and Travers in August and a spectacular grand finale in the Breeders’ Cup Classic where American Pharoah crossing the wire 6 1/2 lengths ahead of the next finisher.

We at the Chronicle celebrated American Pharoah as our Overall Horse Of The Year in our annual American Horses In Sport showcase issue, out on Feb. 1. In the article, we explored his remarkable impact on horse sports in general and found out how he affected the lives of those around him. Read about all of our Horses and Horsemen Of The Year in the Feb. 1 American Horses In Sport issue.

Celebrated for his spectacular, domineering athleticism on the track, “Pharoah” possesses a charming charisma off it as well. Former trainer Bob Baffert shares, “We really miss him so much. We really don’t get too close to these good horses because they don’t stick around—they go to the breeder—but we just got so close to him because of his disposition. He was so kind and sweet. Sweet! He was just so sweet, a baby, just a pet. He’d put his head on your shoulder and leave it there.”


Owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert canoodling with Pharoah in his racing days. Photo by Justin Zayat.

For the impact that Pharoah made on horse sports in 2015, the Chronicle named him our Overall Horse of the Year in our American Horses In Sport issue, out on Feb. 1. We talked to horsemen like John Madden, David O'Connor and Jimmy Wofford about just why American Pharoah's greatness reflects on and affects all horse sports. You might think you've read everything there is to read about American Pharoah, but we unearthed more.

And for this edition of Behind the Stall Door we caught up with the Triple Crown winner at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky and hear a little bit about his new life away from the track from stallion manager Richard Barry:

  • On his transition from the track to the breeding shed: “It has been very straightforward. He is a very sensible horse and he has taken to his new life very quickly,” Barry said. American Pharoah’s stud fee is $200,000 per live foal. A stallion typically covers 200 mares a year, meaning Pharaoh may bring in $40 million his first year. Not bad for a starting salary. 


Pharoah's new home. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

  • A typical day for the celebrity horse looks something like this: “American Pharoah’s days have been fairly relaxed since he retired to Ashford after the Breeders’ Cup. He has quickly settled into the same routine as all the other stallions, which doesn’t vary much from day to day,” Barry said.

    “First thing in the morning he is given some exercise in the lunge ring before he is turned out in his paddock. He spends the morning outside and then is brought in late morning for a groom. He is then available during the day for breeders to come and view him and at 3 p.m., he gets a visit from his many fans as part of the Ashford Stud tour. After that he is fed and bedded down for the night.”


Pharoah and stallion manager Richard Barry. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

  • That begs the question, just what does the most famous horse in the country eat? “Timothy and alfalfa hay, oats and sweet feed. He has 24-hour access to hay and is fed grain twice a day, morning and night,” Barry said.
  • Bedtime routine: “He lies down at least twice during the night and sleeps. We know this because we have a night watch who keeps an eye on all the stallions 24/7.”


Pharoah all ready for bedtime. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

  • In terms of idiosyncrasies, the champion horse is quite level-headed. “He doesn’t really have any quirks. He does have one particular spot in the back left corner of his stall where he seems to spend most his time and seems to be happiest,” according to Barry.
  • Pharoah’s a neat freak: During his Triple Crown bid, former trainer Bob Baffert shared, “He would just get in the corner to one side. He was very clean and he kept the stall very clean. He did all his business in the one corner. He wasn’t a pig, you know? He never woke up with manure on his side. Some will lay right in it.”


Pharoah on the way back to his stall from turn-out. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

  • While tidy in his stall, out in the field, all bets are off. “He gets groomed every day when he comes back from the paddock. Sometimes this can be quite a task as he enjoys rolling around in the paddock and is often covered in mud,” Barry explained. “He enjoys his grooming and gets very quiet during them, he almost falls asleep.” Pharoah’s no dummy. The dirtier he gets, the longer this process lasts.
  • Stallions at the stud farm do not have toys in their stalls but Pharoah has quickly made friends, both equine and human. “He is in the main stallion barn with four other stallions: Munnings, Tale of the Cat, Giant’s Causeway and Competitive Edge,” said Barry.

    “When he is turned out in his paddock he is always next to Thunder Gulch who acts as a kind of babysitter. Thunder is our oldest stallion and he is a very a settled character. Thunder has a settling influence on American Pharoah so that he relaxes while he is outside although Pharoah is very well behaved and doesn’t cause a fuss about anything.”


Pharoah turned out next to Thunder Gulch. 

  • Some things never change: Pharoah’s love of carrots. His favorite treat while racing remains his preferred snack at Coolmore. 
  • Pharoah is a people person…er, horse. “He seems to enjoy the stimulation of interacting with people when they come to visit,” Barry said. “

    It is fair to say he has become accustomed to all the attention as wherever he goes people are interested in him. He is wise beyond his years. He is very laid back, quiet and kind, doesn’t get into trouble and seems to be content all the time.”


American Pharoah's assistant trainer in his racing days, Jimmy Barnes, visited with the champ. Photo courtesy of Coolmore America


Photo courtesy of Coolmore America

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