Victim of circumstances

Y.E. Yang beat Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson to take the heavyweight title. Texas Western upset Kentucky for the NCAA basketball championship. And, of course, the Jets beat the Colts in the third Super Bowl.

But Keen Ice? How did that happen? He had won only once in his career before the Travers, but on Saturday at Saratoga, he rallied to defeat the Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.

Did all the travel finally catch up with the champion? Was it unwise to send American Pharoah journeying across the country again, from California to New York? Did the colt's trainer, Bob Baffert, and owner, Ahmed Zayat, overestimate the Triple Crown winner's resilience? Or did jockey Victor Espinoza make a costly error?

The second-guessing can begin. And it will. Retrospect confers wisdom on us all. From here, though, American Pharoah appeared to lose not just to Keen Ice but also to Frosted, Jose Lezcano and a convergence of circumstances. American Pharoah probably could have overcome any one of them, but together they beat him. That isn't meant to suggest a conspiracy, but the Travers should serve as a reminder that even the best and greatest can have a day when nothing goes right.

Yes, it's quite possible American Pharoah felt the effects of all his travel. The Travers was his seventh race this year, and he has run at six racetracks. Only at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, did he race twice, and between the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, he traveled back to California.

On Saturday, American Pharoah didn't appear to get over the Saratoga surface as gracefully as he had moved over the ground at Belmont Park and Monmouth and certainly not as effortlessly as he had glided through the slop at Pimlico. Perhaps it was because of the travel. Maybe he didn't care for the surface. Saratoga is known as the "Graveyard of Champions" for a reason: It has a long history of confounding aspirations. Saratoga has thwarted such Travers favorites as Bayern, Lion Heart, Awesome Again, Hansel, Go And Go and now American Pharoah.

Even more, American Pharoah appeared to be in the wrong place at the worst time, which is to say he raced close to the inner rail. For Saturday's races at Saratoga, the main track appeared to favor horses racing outside. Ready Dancer and Tale of S'Avall, two maiden winners early in the day, started from post position No. 9 and raced wide. Unbridled Forever rallied outside to win the Ballerina. In the Personal Ensign, which was run much like the Travers, Stopchargingmaria, the 7-5 favorite, shot to the lead from the inside, followed closely by Untapable, the 2-1 second choice. The favorites led the field into the stretch but then struggled. Sheer Drama rallied outside to win; Got Lucky, the runner-up, also rallied outside. Even Runhappy, who won the King's Bishop, and Private Zone, who won the Forego, began from the outside, with both starting from post position No. 11.

If the inside paths were indeed unfavorable, as the results suggest, that would begin to explain the Travers. Espinoza, by the way, didn't ride in any of the races leading up to the Travers. American Pharoah was his only mount for the day.

Then there was Frosted. With Joel Rosario riding, Frosted had given the best performances of his career by rallying from a few lengths off the pace. In the Wood Memorial, for example, he rallied from sixth in the early running and won by two lengths. But Rosario was injured Saturday in the Forego Stakes; Bourbon Courage unseated the jockey in the turn. Lezcano, who never had ridden Frosted, picked up the mount in the Travers.

With his new rider, Frosted's style changed. He went after American Pharoah early. Perhaps that was the plan, or perhaps Lezcano took the initiative, but he and Frosted, even more than Keen Ice, contributed to American Pharoah's loss. On the backstretch, Espinoza appeared to try to move off the rail, but Frosted and Lezcano, just to the outside, wouldn't allow it. When American Pharoah quickened, Frosted went with him. Lezcano was race-riding, which forced the Triple Crown winner into an uncomfortable position and, quite possibly, onto the slower paths of the surface. American Pharoah ran the opening half-mile in 48.30 seconds, but pushed by Frosted into and around the second turn, he ran the next half-mile in 46.78 seconds.

With American Pharoah digging in along the inside rail, the leaders eyeballed each other as they entered the stretch. American Pharoah got the best of Frosted with an eighth of a mile remaining and for an instant appeared on his way to another victory, but when that instant passed, he was clearly a tired and spent horse. He had little left. Keen Ice rallied -- where else? -- on the outside to complete the 1-1/4 miles in 2:01.57, a solid but unspectacular clocking, and win by three-quarters of a length. Frosted held on gamely for third.

Keen Ice obviously ran well. His connections deserve credit for repeatedly accepting the challenge of taking on American Pharoah, who had beaten Keen Ice in their three previous meetings. But what did the Travers mean? Has Keen Ice, a late-blooming and improving sort, caught up with the Triple Crown winner? No, in the Travers, Keen Ice basically duplicated his runner-up performance in the Haskell.

Nor does the Travers mean American Pharoah is any less talented or formidable than previously thought. The loss doesn't diminish his accomplishments. Moving forward, the Travers could mean little. American Pharoah gave his worst performance of the year, and still, he nearly won.

More than anything, the Travers simply confirmed that circumstances can beat anybody.