SARATOGA SPRINGS — With a crowd of about 15,000 cheering him all the way, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah went for a glorious gallop around Saratoga Race Course the day before he runs in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes.
The sun was shining and temperatures were in the 60s when American Pharoah walked onto the track Friday with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard at about 8:45 a.m.
Thousands — young and old — lined the fences along pathways from the colt’s backstretch barn to the main track. As he ran past the grandstand, thousands more cheered and raised cellphones to capture the moment. After 1 1/2 miles, American Pharoah was eased up and walked back to his barn for a sponge bath.
“We had a nice little gallop today and it looks like everything went smooth,” trainer Bob Baffert said after arriving from California on Thursday. “I could tell he really liked the track. He was floating around there like he usually does. He had his ears up, and was moving out there pretty well. I feel very happy with the way he went.”
The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years is the 1-5 morning-line favorite in a 10-horse field for the Travers.
Baffert was bowled over by the reception his star horse received for a simple gallop.
“I was pretty overwhelmed. It was pretty incredible,” Baffert said. “I know he’s got a big backing and has a lot of fans, but it seems like it keeps growing and growing. I feel like it puts more pressure on me, like I’m his guardian. I think it’s great younger kids will remember this.”
After becoming the 12th horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah was honored all over the country. He was paraded at Churchill Downs in Kentucky before a crowd of about 30,000, showcased at Santa Anita in California in front of some 20,000 fans a few weeks later and then won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey before a record crowd of more than 60,900. A sellout crowd of 50,000 is set for Travers Day.
Baffert said now that the Haskell is behind him — “deep down, I just didn’t want to see him get beat” his first race back — the Pharoah Tour is in full swing at the Spa, where this horse-crazed town is calling itself Pharatoga.
“This is what you want to see in horse racing,” Baffert said. “Racing needed a boost. We have some really great horses that run and put on big performances, but sometimes lots of people aren’t there to see them. So this is unique ... so many people are here watching him ... through the Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Haskell. A lot of people have been able to follow this horse and latch on to him.”
Because American Pharoah handles just about every new situation without a fuss, Baffert says it makes his job easier. However, he knows he’s in charge of racing’s most valuable jewel. And that makes him nervous.
“We get to take him all over the country,” the 62-year-old Hall of Famer trainer said. “He really enjoys what he does. He enjoys the crowd. That’s the way he is.
“He’s like a pet. He’s a superstar pet. And so that’s why the pressure to me is to make sure everything is 100 percent, make sure everything is perfect. I feel like I’m protecting the president of the United States and I’m a Secret Service guy making sure nothing happens to him.”
NEW YORK — The CEO of the company that runs adultery website Ashley Madison is stepping down in the wake of the massive breach of the company’s computer systems and outing of millions of its members.
Avid Life Media Inc. said Noel Biderman’s departure is effective immediately and was a mutual decision.
“This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees,” Avid Life’s statement reads. “We are steadfast in our commitment to our customer base.”
Biderman didn’t immediately return an email sent to his work account seeking comment.
Biderman, who touted himself as “the king of infidelity,” made millions off the philosophy that cheating is a natural part of married life. The site charges a fee each time a member sends a potential lover a message.
Biderman has written books espousing his views on adultery, including one published in 2011 titled: “Cheaters Prosper — How Infidelity Will Save The Modern Marriage.” At the same time, the married father of two has claimed to be a devoted husband and that his wife of 12 years would be heartbroken if he ever broke his vows to her.
Privately held Toronto-based Avid Life grossed $115 million in earnings last year, according to tax documents and figures shared by Biderman with Forbes.
Avid Life’s statement released Friday went on to say that it’s “actively adjusting” to the fallout from the hacking and continues to provide access to its services. The company, which has offered a $500,000 Canadian (U.S. $378,204) reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers, adds that it continues to cooperate with international law enforcement in their investigations.
Hackers originally breached Avid Life’s systems in July, accusing it of filling the site with fake profiles and charging fees for wiping profiles that were never truly deleted. The hackers posted the information online a month later after the company didn’t comply with their demands to shut down.
The posting of the data — including names, emails, home addresses, financial data and message history — has so far resulted in a flurry of lawsuits throughout the U.S. There also have been reports of extortion attempts and two unconfirmed suicides, according to Canadian police.
The credit-card information of U.S. government workers — some with sensitive jobs in the White House, Congress and the Justice Department — also was revealed in the breach. And hundreds of email addresses in the data release appear to be connected to federal, provincial and municipal workers across Canada.
Ashley Madison, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair,” purports to have nearly 40 million members.
NEW YORK — You, your mom, your grandma and elementary school buddy Lawrence might have been some of the billion people who logged in to Facebook on Monday — the first time that has happened in a single day. That’s right, 1 billion people, or one-seventh of the Earth’s population.
It was a big symbolic milestone for the world’s biggest online social network, which boasts nearly 1.5 billion users who log in at least once a month. CEO Mark Zuckerberg marked the occasion with a Facebook post.
Most of the billion people who logged in on Monday were outside the U.S. and Canada. Of Facebook’s overall users, more than 83 percent come from other countries. This is also where Facebook’s next billions of users will likely come from as it grows.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Erika nears Florida.
The storm could hit the peninsula Monday. Scott made his declaration shortly after forecasters adjusted the trajectory of the storm to show that it’s predicted to go through the middle of the state.
Scott’s emergency order said Erika “poses a severe threat to the entire state.”
The order calls for the activation of the National Guard and gives authorities the ability to waive tolls and rules to allow emergency crews and vehicles to move throughout the state.
A hurricane hasn’t hit Florida in 10 years. The latest forecasts show that Erika will remain a tropical storm when it makes landfall.
On Friday, Erika lashed Puerto Rico with wind and rain and had killed at least four people. The storm was about 90 miles east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republican, and was moving west at 17 mph with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
WARRENSBURG — A massive fire has caused extensive damage at an Adirondack company that makes animal bedding and cat litter.
The Post-Star of Glens Falls said the blaze was reported around 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Nepco’s operations in the Warren County town of Warrensburg, 60 miles north of Albany.
The newspaper reported the fire appears to have destroyed at least two warehouses containing a large amount of wood products. Firefighters fought the blaze into Thursday night to keep the flames from spreading to three lumber-related businesses located next door.
No information was available Friday morning from the Warrensburg Fire Department.
No injuries have been reported.
Nepco’s website says it makes eco-friendly, wood fiber-based animal bedding and litter. Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
GRANBY — Authorities say a Florida man has been charged with raping two young girls in central New York over a seven-year span.
State police say 35-year-old Shad Goldthwait of Palm Bay was arrested Thursday night and charged with rape, sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct against a child.
Troopers say the crimes occurred between 2002 and 2009 when both girls were younger than 11 years old at the time. Police say one of the victims is now an adult, while the other is still under 16 years old.
Troopers say Goldthwait raped the girls in three municipalities in Oswego County.
He was arraigned Thursday night in Granby Town Court and sent to the county jail on $204,000 cash bail. It couldn’t be determined if he has a lawyer who could comment on the charges.
LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — A popular state-run beach on Lake George is closed after an oily substance was spilled into the water.
The Post-Star of Glens Falls reports that the Department of Health ordered the Million Dollar Beach swimming area closed at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday after an oily sheen appeared offshore near the state’s newly opened boat launch.
The origin of the substance isn’t known but officials say it was consistent with a hydraulic fluid.
Crews placed absorbent booms along the shore near the boat launch, which opened on the southern end of the Adirondack lake earlier this year.
The beach and adjacent boat launch are run by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Staff from DEC, the Lake George Park Commission and health department of Health were on the scene Thursday.