The legacy of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah is secure whether or not he wins Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the colt's jockey Victor Espinoza said on Wednesday.
American Pharoah, who earlier this year became the 12th horse -- and first since 1978 -- to capture the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, is the 6-5 morning line favorite to win the final race of his career.
"The Classic is just a bonus," Espinoza told Reuters via telephone from Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, site of Saturday's race. "Regardless of how he does, he's still a champion. He has nothing else to prove."
Since winning the Triple Crown and cementing his place in racing history, American Pharoah won the Haskell Invitational but finished second in the Travers Stakes on August 29 at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt has not raced since the Travers, an extended layoff that might be worrisome to some but not Espinoza. He believes the breather will enable Kentucky-bred American Pharoah to claim racing's first-ever Grand Slam.
"He's been resting for two months and I think he needed that," said the 43-year-old Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year before finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
"After that loss in the Travers, he is set up well for the Breeders' Cup. He's ready."
Among the nine rivals looking to spoil American Pharoah's farewell party on Saturday are Beholder, a 5-year-old mare who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and Distaff in 2013, and Keen Ice, winner of the Travers in August.
Espinoza knows that when the gates open on Saturday, he will have a bullseye on his back.
"In every race that American Pharoah has run, everyone wants to beat him," he said. "It's not easy. He's a big target. Sometimes the jockeys are just trying to beat him, not to win the race.
"Hopefully, with a $5 million purse, everyone will be trying to win on Saturday."
After the Classic, American Pharoah will head to nearby Versailles, Kentucky, to begin a stud career.
"I'm excited for him because he's going to have a nice life," said Espinoza. "It's time for him to enjoy retirement. He's done a lot of things for everyone, including myself.
"I'm not sad. He's been through a lot. I couldn't be happier for him."