On Saturday, June 6, horseracing fans around the world watched history in the making at Belmont Park in New York as American Pharoah became just the 12th horse in history to complete one of the most difficult feats in all of sports by winning the Triple Crown. It was an emotional day for all true fans of thoroughbred racing.
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American Pharoah took his place in the number five stall of the starting gate amid seven other horses that were all looking to spoil his chance at glory and extend the 37-year Triple Crown drought.(src) Not since Affirmed in 1978 had a horse won all three races in the series—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont is typically considered the most difficult race in the series. Contested at the distance of 1 ½ miles over a deep track nicknamed “Big Sandy” for its tiring surface, the Belmont Stakes is referred to as the Test of the Champion.
Race caller Larry Collmus indicated that American Pharoah was slow exiting the gate as the race began, but this did not seem to negatively affect the colt as he surged to an early lead. Throughout the first mile of the race American Pharoah was able to set a very tepid pace that allowed the horse to conserve energy for the stretch run. None of the other horses in the field seemed willing to challenge American Pharoah in the early stages and appeared to prefer making a run at him as the field turned for home.
By then it was too late.
As they entered the homestretch, jockey Victor Espinoza asked American Pharoah for his best effort and the colt responded by opening up a two-length lead over his closest rivals. Despite having competed in three grueling events in a span of five weeks, American Pharoah hardly looked winded as the lead increased to three…four…five lengths. The 90,000 fans in attendance at Belmont Park cheered wildly as American Pharoah sealed his place in the history books by crossing the wire first in the Belmont Stakes.
Trainer Bob Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat were swamped by well-wishers. Among those on hand to congratulate the winners was 93 year-old Penny Chenery, the owner of the legendary Secretariat. Secretariat ran the fastest time in the history of the Belmont Stakes in winning the Triple Crown in 1973. When the smoke cleared on Saturday, American Pharoah had posted the second best Belmont time ever achieved in completing the Triple Crown—2:24.65.
The race was jockey Victor Espinoza’s third try at completing the Triple Crown and the fourth for trainer Bob Baffert.
The breeding rights for American Pharoah were syndicated by owner Ahmed Zayat in a multimillion dollar deal that will affect the horse’s career going forward. Zayat has not ruled out American Pharoah racing throughout 2015 before he retires and is sent to a stud farm.