What It Took To Make American Pharoah Go

Customizing a half plate shoe to protect a bruise paid off for the Triple Crown winner

American Pharoah is shown winning the Breeder’s Cup while wearing a half plate that keeps the heel elevated. Wes Champagne says a half plate (shown at left) could work well for horses that have ligament concerns below the ankle or sore heels. Photos: Benoit Photo
Wes Champagne drills out the top half of the thin aluminum plate.

Wes Champagne did such a good job of shoeing American Pharoah that the colt’s feet rarely made the news. As American Pharoah raced into immortality by becoming the first Thoroughbred Triple Crown winner in 37 years and then adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic win, no one outside of trainer Bob Baffert’s barn probably even thought about his horseshoes.

But Baffert and Champagne paid special attention to the feet of what turned out to be only the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.

The only blip on American Pharoah’s health as a racehorse was a foot bruise in the fall of 2014. Had the trainer and farrier not put footcare first, the colt’s legendary career might never have happened.

Started With A Bruise

American Pharoah developed a bruise in his left front foot right before the 2014 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. With two spectacular wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Front Runner Stakes, he would have been the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for 2-year-olds. Instead, he sat out the race and didn’t compete again for more than 5 months.

To deal with the situation, Baffert brought in Champagne, a…

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Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a veteran equine writer from Monrovia, Calif., who has done considerable work covering the horse racing industry.

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