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October 31, 2015

Bob Baffert

Victor Espinoza

Ahmed Zayat

Justin Zayat

Lexington, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, as we all know, the winners of the $5 million dollar Breeders' Cup Classic were the connections of American Pharoah, and we're so glad to be joined by a few of them now, racing manager Justin Zayat; winning jockey, Victor Espinoza; and winning owner Ahmed Zayat. And we hope to be joined by Bob Baffert shortly. You saw it's a little bit of a mess trying to get down here. We're going to get started. We know people are on deadline.
Ahmed, I want to start with you. Congratulations. Amazing finish to an incredible career. Just tell us what's going through your head right now and for the past 20 minutes or so.
AHMED ZAYAT: What could you say? I mean, what a horse. The kindest, friendliest, happiest, easiest, most brilliant horse I've ever seen in my life.
We've been very privileged. We owe American Pharoah everything. Us, the Zayats, the Bafferts, his groom, all of us. He us just once in a lifetime.
I said it once, and more than once. This race was only about American Pharoah. We want him to go out as a winner. Just for the horse. He has ran so hard and so brilliantly for a very long, taxing time. I doubt that we'll ever‑‑ hopefully we will, but I doubt we'll ever see a horse who is able to really take what he's done in terms of shipping in and out and going to seven or eight different tracks. Doesn't want his‑‑ doesn't care about the surface, doesn't care about where he's sitting. He just does it all. He runs with his heart. He is kind. He's brilliantly fast. He's just a different kind of animal.
And he connected with people. He loves people. I knew he got it. It's so weird. I know sometimes you look in this industry and some little things just makes you be superstitious. Everybody was looking and he literally stopped when he was‑‑ and looked at me and my family. And we like start, oh, my God. Like I'm ready, I'm going to get it done. It's just, it was an incredible thrill.
I really did not watch the final eighth. I closed my eyes. I see him opening. I know it's done and I got extremely emotional and, you know, that's all.
THE MODERATOR: Joined now by winning trainer Bob Baffert. Bob, congratulations to you not just on this victory but the way you managed the horse throughout his career. Tell us how you're feeling right now.
BOB BAFFERT: I feel, I'm so proud of the horse, but a sense of relief. After that last race, I was really pretty down on myself. I thought he was really doing‑‑ was doing really well enough to win that race and he just was a little flat.
We had that extra time, got him ready. And when he's right, you saw what he can do. It was just very emotional. But it was just, I think this horse has brought so much to racing and it's been a privilege to train this horse. It's been a privilege to watch him train, to watch him breeze.
Everybody involved, Jimmy Barnes, Giorgio, Martin Garcia, who breezes him for me. There are so many people involved. He gave everyone what they came to see today. That's what horse racing is about.
There was some great racing. We saw some really good horses run. That's the beauty of the Breeders' Cup. It's tough. It's tough to win. You better come with a good horse and you better be ready. I'm just so proud of Pharoah, what he did today, just watching him turn for home.
It was just, it's probably the greatest horse I'll ever be involved with and I've had some really nice horses. But I just have never seen anything like him, never trained anything like him. And we were just‑‑ I'm just so‑‑ he is a gift from God.
I'm just glad that the Pharoah, he goes out the champ that he is, and it's going to be sad to see him go. But I think he's done enough. He's proved enough. We're going to miss him, aren't we, buddy?
BODIE BAFFERT: Yeah, we are.
THE MODERATOR: We all are, Bob.
Victor, could this race have unfolded any more closely to the plan I imagine you had going into it?
VICTOR ESPINOZA: Yeah. I was ready for it. I know it's going to be the last race, and I was ready for riding with‑‑ like I always do.
I want to bounce out of there and let it run. He's really high speed like he's always done it before. I don't want to take any chance. I don't want to take one inch out of him and during the race to anybody get close to me.
I kind of, in the back side, he kind of slowed down a little bit, and I look at the track and I was like a little bit like a little bit deep, right, and in that path and then I decide to move him just like maybe one or two lengths out.
And as soon as I kind of moved him from that spot, he reaccelerated again. It feels like he was a little bit more light in there. And then for that, I was like wow. I was really excited.
But turning for home, I was not worried about the track. I was gone. I was trying to open it up as much as I can. And I saw the wire maybe 20 yards, and it was, for me it was not coming fast enough because I want to cross that wire and get it over with.
American Pharoah is one of the best horses that I'm ever probably going to ride.
THE MODERATOR: Could you feel, did he get more powerful between, say, the Travers and today? Was this, in your opinion, his most powerful victory, or can you feel a difference between, say, this and the Belmont?
VICTOR ESPINOZA: This time, it was like all three Triple Crown races, the way he was running. I bounced out of there and just let her run. Travers is a different race, completely different. But I never think about Travers, okay? I always think about the races that I win. I never think that, because that in itself was heartbreaking for me and I'm sure for everybody else.
I'm sure, like, Baffert and Joe and Zayat say, you know, we don't want to see this horse to get beat. But nevertheless, I think it was probably the best thing that could happen to him so he'd have a couple months rest and Baffert train him like always. I mean, unbelievable.
THE MODERATOR: A question for Ahmed and Justin and Bob before I turn it over to the media. Where does this now, in your opinion, place American Pharoah in the annals of American racing?
AHMED ZAYAT: I think it's highly inappropriate for me to honestly comment on that. It's kind of I'll let history place him properly. I'm not a historian. I'm extremely biased.
American Pharoah have delivered everything we've asked for. He have done something that's not done in 37 years in sheer ease. If this horse had been pushed in either, in my opinion, the Preakness or the Belmont, he would have broken a track record. He is brilliantly fast. But it's not how fast, it's how easy for him things are. He's a smart horse. He's a brilliant horse. He protects himself.
One final thought from me about American Pharoah's legacy. Bob and I, for weeks after the Travers, have beaten ourself up. I, as an owner, taken total responsibility for him losing the Travers. I have zero regret. It was the most incredible love, love, love of equine [indiscernible] 15,000 coming. Everybody got overzealous. He did too much.
The horse show us how brilliant he was. He was totally empty and ran his heart out. In defeat he was gallant and we did not want to let his legacy end this way. This man, my friend, my trainer, not only did a brilliant job getting a horse off a layoff to run back to form, a most brilliant performance.
I am saddened that Beholden was not here, because I'm a huge fan of this sport and have tremendous respect of the champion. And honestly, I wanted to beat her. It took a little bit of the race, but it didn't take a lot of American Pharoah. And we are so humbled and privileged again to have owned that horse.
THE MODERATOR: I do want to take questions, but we've got folks trying to listen up in the press box. Lynn?

Q. Mr.Zayat, the other day, you were saying that you were unsure of what comes next tor Pharoah, that he is retired but you weren't sure when he was going to the farm or you wanted to do a legacy. You said you'd talk about it after the race.
AHMED ZAYAT: Okay. Everybody asks me what's next for American Pharoah. Obviously, retirement. The question is, how? A Triple Crown winner should go out in a way that is appropriate of how he was embraced by the fans and the sport.
Just I'm superstitious. I did not want to discuss it with Bob or even the stud farm, Coolmar, or when is he going to go there. I said after the race, we'll sit together and discuss what is an appropriate farewell, sendoff in order to pay tribute to such a special animal.

Q. Bob, you talked about how nervous you were going to be before this race. Were you and when did it go away?
BOB BAFFERT: I probably‑‑ I got nervous when‑‑ I started getting nervous about‑‑ I always get nervous about like an hour out to start. We came from the hotel about a couple hours before the race, and we were just hanging around the offices here at Keeneland.
So it was‑‑ I just‑‑ you want everything to go right, but when I saddled him, I could tell he was‑‑ he was full of himself and he was behaving right.
I got to meet Kentucky Wildcat Coach Calipari, and that was pretty exciting and Bodie got to meet him. He was telling me he was afraid that he didn't want to give me a bad draw. He had a lot of pressure on him, and so I told him you gave us a great spot, and so I was just having fun with it.
But I was just so worried. I just wanted to make sure that this horse ran well. Not only for him, but for all the fans of racing that are watching him. There's extreme amount of pressure that we have when you have a horse like this, and so I just wanted to make sure that he was doing well.
Saw Victor in the Paddock. I said, Victor, he's sharp. You can just‑‑ you're going to feel that, the Pharoah today and let's hope it goes well. Race clean. Do your thing.
And when I saw him down the back side, I felt pretty good about it. He was moving really well, and I knew it was‑‑ from then on, it was‑‑ it's racing. If it happens, it happens.
Then turning for home, it was just pretty incredible to‑‑ I was standing in the Paddock watching the race. I wish I would have watched him in the front to hear the crowd. I didn't get to see the crowd, but I was enjoying that moment with my wife, Jill, and we were just emotional for us, the journey with this horse that we've been on. Probably Bodie was probably more nervous than anybody. He was very nervous, but I'm just glad that the Pharoah showed up. You'll probably get that big buyer you guys have been looking for today.
But I want to thank Victor Espinoza. He really played a huge part, because he didn't‑‑ all those big races, he just didn't let him out. He saved something. We had it today. And I'm just, I'm proud of my team and it's going to be‑‑ hopefully, somebody will drop another horse like this in my lap.
It's going to a tough act to follow, I'm telling you what, but we're going to go back to work, try to find another one.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, we'll get your reaction now that the racing career of American Pharoah is over.
JUSTIN ZAYAT: To sum it up, he's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. All year, we were pressured, first, to make it on to the Derby trail. Everything had to go exactly right. Thank God it did. You know, same up to the races.
You come out of the Travers and we're thinking what's next for American Pharoah? Is it the same horse? We took him back home. Bob told us, this horse does not look like he wants to retire right now. There's no chance.
We sat down with Bob. He said I'm going to prepare this horse and he's going to be ready to roll. All week, Bob was so confident in this horse. You could just see how relaxed he was. He was joking around with us all week.
He knew he was ready to roll. So I felt great, and to me, American Pharoah, he's the greatest horse I've ever seen, and I don't think I'll see anything like him ever again.

Q. I'm addressing to the Zayat family. You could have retired him after the Travers, but you took on a new challenge and you were able to meet the challenge. The racing fraternity in America thanks you for it. Thank you.
AHMED ZAYAT: Thank you very much.

Q. This question is for Mr.Bob Baffert. The other day, you said this horse lifts my spirits. You were kind of a plain spoken man, but you sounded rather philosophical. I want you to talk for a moment about American Pharoah not as a horse but as an individual.
BOB BAFFERT: The thing that makes this horse so special and‑‑ first of all, he's so spoiled because he's such a kind‑‑ he's a kind horse. But he's got a great mind. He's got‑‑ you've seen the way this horse, he takes his track with him. He ships. He flies. He goes everywhere. There's no excuse. He just goes. And he shows up.
And that's an incredible individual. I mean, I've had horses that were maybe, on a given day, they were as fast as him, but they had a small window. And his window has been wide open the whole time.
It's something that we realized this spring, what an incredible animal he is. So I think it's something that‑‑ I grew up, to me, Secretariat was the greatest horse I ever saw, watched run.
Just to be close to him or in the same sentence as him, to me, as a horse trainer, it makes me feel like when people come up to me, I can't judge what kind of‑‑ how great he is or whatever. But I know by training, I've had some really good ones and he is just incredible. Completely. His mechanics are totally different than any horse I've ever had.
I even tried to get Todd Pletcher to walk him the other day. I said, Todd, watch this horse. He didn't want to take the shank. He said, I don't want to walk him. I said, I want you to feel his mechanics. He walks really‑‑ he's just, he's fast. Even the way he walks, it's incredible mechanics that this horse has.
And that's why he has brought it, other than the little bump at Saratoga, other than that, that's my fault. It's not his fault. And I would do it again in a heartbeat, because that was the most‑‑ the day before‑‑ that was the best day of my career watching those fans going into Saratoga.
I was so glad, I felt bad for the horse, but it was an incredible few days there. To me, racing, we've got to‑‑ this big horse, we can't be afraid to run these horses.
He could have put him away after the Triple Crown. He could have taken a chance. We were ready for all challengers. Unfortunately, the field weakened, but that's the kind of horse. He's that strong of a horse that we call him‑‑ he's hickory, whatever, you know. But it was like‑‑ my friend, Wayne Lucas, who to me is one of the greatest thoroughbred trainers of all time. I wanted to be like Wayne all my life.
THE MODERATOR: Bob, Wayne has something to say.

Q. Bob, on behalf of every one of us who get up in the morning and train horses, I want to congratulate you, Victor, on an extraordinarily job. You were absolutely masterful. You had him trained to the minute. I knew he'd break the heart at the half mile pole, and he did it. You had him ready. On behalf of every trainer who gets up and tries to make a living, I want to congratulate you. You've been wonderful.
THE MODERATOR: That was pretty extraordinary. Who else has a question?

Q. We haven't heard much from Justin yet. So I want to ask you, is your excitement at the same level it was at Derby?
JUSTIN ZAYAT: For sure. I mean, I didn't have the same reaction, but my excitement for American Pharoah never ends. I wake up every morning excited. I wake up every morning, the first thing I go on is my Twitter to see who is posting the newest picture of American Pharoah or looking at my phone to see if Bob's texting me a video.
So every day with American Pharoah is the biggest excitement and thrill for me.
AHMED ZAYAT: No questions. I want to add: To manage a horse the way this horse has been managed by a masterful job by Bob Baffert, words cannot describe. It's the very little day in, day out care and love this horse received in his barn.
I want, first, to thank Martin Garcia, a person who was totally selfless, breezing the horse and working him out. His whole team, from Lalo, the groom, to Giorgio, to Dana, to Jim Barnes, to obviously the masterful job that Victor Espinoza has given. He's ridden the horse every time with tremendous confidence.
I cannot thank enough the industry and thank Keeneland. I walk in here and every single person I met at the door coming in, not executive, not top guys, but simple people, who are working the gates, thank you for coming to Keeneland. Thank you for coming to Keeneland.
This is an incredible appreciation of race comers, and appreciation of the fans coming in. Most people did not know who I am, but people‑‑ I felt how this town have embraced and celebrated racing.
I couldn't be any happier that the Breeders' Cup has come finally to Keeneland, in horse country. And what the Breeders' Cup has put on a show, I'm very thankful for this experience.
I'm very happy for the sport, for enjoying a star like American Pharoah, going off on a high note. I wish if I could have kept him another year to race, it would have been the icing on the cake. But the reality of the business does not allow us to do that. Maybe in the future we'll be looking for something like that.
THE MODERATOR: Last question from the press box. Bob, they wanted to know if American Pharoah will come out of the barn tomorrow morning? Will he leave the barn? Where can we find you in the morning, if possible?
BOB BAFFERT: I'm going to be charging like a hundred dollars to come see him. I'm going to milk this for all I can. He'll be here. We'll be at the barn. I was‑‑ I don't know. We're just going to be hanging out there and we'll probably bring him out around probably like 8:00, 9:00, you know, whatever. I don't want to really‑‑ I haven't even thought about it. Right now, we were so focused on the race. Also, Keeneland is a really good place to buy a horse.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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