OCEANPORT, N.J. — When the music played about 10 minutes before the start of the Haskell Invitational, there was no way American Pharoah could lose.
As the Triple Crown winner stepped onto the track for first race since sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, Monmouth Park's Haskell anthem was blasting away over the sound system, and many in the record crowd of 60,983 were singing along: "... tramps like us, baby we were born to run."
Pharoah fever was in the air, to the tune of Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." Everyone seemed to catch it. Maybe even American Pharoah — despite the earplugs he wears because he's sensitive to sound.
On a perfect summer day at the Jersey Shore track, racing's biggest star delivered an encore performance to remember — a 2 1/4-length victory in the $1.75 million Haskell that was much more dominating than the margin indicates.
"It was pretty easy," winning jockey Victor Espinoza said after American Pharoah raced second until midway around the far turn before seizing the lead and taking control. "For me the key was just coming out of there running."
A slight nudge by Espinoza gave American Pharoah the cue he needed to show off his blazing speed and cruise home without any urging.
"This horse, he just keeps bringing it," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He's just a great horse."
For a day, Springsteen was probably happy to let American Pharoah be The Boss.