It was a Hollywood-like welcome for a true equine star.
There were flashing lights, a police escort, a helicopter providing live TV coverage and close to 100 media and racing insiders waiting to greet the van carrying Triple Crown winner American Pharoah as he returned to trainer Bob Baffert's barn at Santa Anita on Thursday.
With a cloudless sky and palm trees waving in the distance, the van came down the driveway to the barn area, made a left turn and pulled up in front of Baffert's stable area. American Pharoah was the first horse led off the ramp and looked comfortable after flying in from Louisville, Ky., to L.A./Ontario International Airport and then taking a 90-minute van ride to Arcadia.
"He was so easy and quiet the whole time," said track official Alexis Garske, who made the trip on the van. "He's a very happy horse."
Baffert guided American Pharoah around the barn area a couple times as cameras clicked in rapid fashion. Then American Pharoah got a bath away from the cameras. American Pharoah's jockey, Victor Espinoza, was there to greet him.
"I'm excited to see him," Espinoza said. "He's been away for a long time, but it was a nice ride for him and I."
American Pharoah is scheduled to be paraded in front of fans June 27 between races at Santa Anita. Baffert intends to train him for a still-undecided next race, with the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 31 in Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., the ultimate goal.
Keeping American Pharoah healthy and happy will be Baffert's task. The colt is going to get the VIP treatment, which means, "He's probably going to get a few more carrots," Baffert said.
Baffert was joking that his dog, Dale, an Australian shepherd, is the "official guard dog" for American Pharoah. Track officials say security around the Baffert barn will be tightened to protect the 3-year-old, whose breeding rights are reportedly worth more than $20 million.
Baffert's wife, Jill, was on crutches for the greeting after having hip replacement surgery. His son, Bode, wore an American Pharoah T-shirt.
Baffert continues to enjoy the spotlight of training the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
"I get all the attention, because American Pharoah refuses to talk to the media," he said.