WASHINGTON -- Vice President Mike Pence says Triple Crown winner American Pharoah bit him hard enough on the arm during a 2018 visit to Kentucky that he nearly collapsed.
But farm manager Dermot Ryan, who was there as Pence was presented with an American Pharoah halter, said Friday it would be out of character for a horse he described as "sweet."
"If he gave someone a nasty bite, I'd know it," Ryan said. He said Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Versailles was "very honored" to have the vice president visit and called him "very pleasant."
Pence offered the horse tale Friday at a policy retreat for House Republicans in Baltimore, who face a challenge retaking the chamber in 2020: "In our line of work, you're going to get bit sometimes, but you keep fighting forward," Pence said.
The close encounter with American Pharoah, who in 2015 became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, came as Pence traveled to Kentucky in March 2018 on behalf of Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky, who faced a competitive race against former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.
Barr was with Pence, but did not see the bite occur. He did see a bruise when Pence "showed it off on Air Force Two," spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said.
Pence said he enthusiastically accepted Barr's invitation to meet the racehorse. The vice president said he had grown up in Indiana watching the Kentucky Derby from afar.
And he said he and his wife, Karen, "like to go horseback riding every chance we get."
He described Coolmore to the House Republicans as "this very fancy Kentucky farm" where "everything was really manicured really nice." He said there was a crowd of cameras around as he was asked if he wanted to hold Pharaoh's reins.
"I'm a horse guy. I said, 'Yeah, let me hold him,' " Pence said. But then, he said, American Pharaoh "bit me so hard on the arm, I almost collapsed."