Vice President Pence got laughs Friday as he told House Republicans that the champion racing horse American Pharoah once bit his arm so hard he “almost collapsed.”
“I just gritted my teeth and smiled,” Pence said at a Baltimore policy retreat, recalling a visit last year to the Kentucky farm where he met the famed Triple Crown winner. “Because you know what, in our line of work, you’re gonna get bit sometimes, but you keep fighting forward.”
The story drew cheers from the audience — but confusion from the farm manager who was by Pence’s side for the encounter some billed as “VP Meets AP.”
“If he gave someone a nasty bite, I’d know it,” Dermot Ryan, the America manager for the racehorse-breeding company Coolmore, told the McClatchy news group.
Ryan said Friday that such behavior would be unexpected from a “sweet” horse, though he added that the farm, Ashford Stud, was “honored” by Pence’s visit, McClatchy reported. Ryan called the vice president “very pleasant.”
Pence, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night, was presented with a halter at the Versailles, Ky., site in March 2018 during a trip to support Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr (R-Ky.) in his ultimately successful but tight reelection bid against Democrat Amy McGrath.
Barr spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker told McClatchy the congressman did not witness the alleged nip, though he invited Pence and joined him for the visit. But Barr saw the resulting bruise when Pence “showed it off on Air Force Two,” Whitaker added.
Barr’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Washington Post, nor did farm manager Ryan and other staff at Coolmore America.
The vice president, who says he and his wife, Karen, “like to go horseback riding every chance we get,” told members of his party Friday that he accepted an offer to hold American Pharoah’s reins.
That’s when, Pence says, he was nipped hard.
The vice president did not mention a bite when he spoke of his visit with American Pharoah later in the day at an event promoting the Trump administration’s tax cut bill.
“I like to be around winners,” he said at the time.
In 2015, American Pharoah became the 12th-ever winner of the Triple Crown, winning three demanding races for 3-year-old thoroughbred horses spread out over just five weeks. He was the first animal to achieve the honor in nearly 40 years; he’s continued to make headlines since then, breaking records this week as his progeny sold for an eye-popping $8.2 million.
Now, he’s in the news again with Pence’s story.