Finally: American Pharoah Wins the Triple Crown

June 9, 2015

American Pharoah at Coolmore

After several failed attempts, and 37 years, we finally have our next Triple Crown winner. The sleek colt with the missing tail and misspelled name, proved his worthiness to be just the 12th thoroughbred in the history of The Sport of Kings, to hoist The Triple Crown trophy, with a decisive victory in The Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah likely won’t be our last Triple Crown winner either. He’s the fourth I have seen, and I am grateful for that, as it is truly one of the great rarities and accomplishments in sports. I am also thankful he has gone a long way in silencing those who call for change in the series. I’m all for leaving it be. It takes a special horse and it should. I remember in the seventies, we had a run of three leading up to Spectacular Bid, who was the first cinch to fail. Back then people were complaining it was too easy, too many horses were doing it. The Bid silenced many of those similar to how American Pharoah did his part for the traditionalists.

American Pharoah left little logic in doubting his worthiness. He won the race in splendid wire to wire fashion. Further he did so with his splits getting progressively faster after his first quarter mile. His fractions looked like this; 24.04, 48.83, 1:13.41, 1:37.99, 2:02.33, 2:26.65. Those who follow this great game know how rare that is, and how extremely rare it is in a race at the grueling distance of a mile and a half. Put another exclamation point on it for taking into consideration that commercial breeding in the United States, puts emphasis on speed as opposed to stamina. Let’s add it was the second fastest Belmont Stakes in Triple Crown history behind only Secretariat. At 2:26.65 it was also the sixth fastest in the history of the race. Logically American Pharoah silenced any critics of his deserving the highest of honors bestowed on a three year old race horse in this country.

This had to be especially gratifying for Ahmed Zayat, his son Justin, and the whole family and barn. Not that winning The Triple Crown isn’t enough, but the Zayats took some tough beats in the series and handled them gracefully. Further in the weeks leading up to the race they became a target of social media zealots who took to bashing them for matters not fully disclosed or discussed, but more importantly that had nothing to do with the horse, or matters at hand. The Zayats have always run their operation with the best interest of the sport and horse at the forefront. As such they operate with a higher level of transparency than many other stables. They weathered through that storm, with the same grace they handled the tough beats.

What must be even more special for them is that the horse is a homebred, and a horse they believed in for a long time. I spoke to both Ahmed and Justin before The Kentucky Derby about American Pharoah. They knew he was fast, and very special early on. Ahmed told me he was seconds faster than any horse he had ever worked with. Everyone who was ever around him raved accolades about him, and we are talking experienced horseman. The colt had a presence to him to go with his flashy speed and way of getting across the ground. Despite all their prior tough beats and disappointments they were very confident going into the series.

Offhand I can’t think of anyone who has had tougher Triple Crown beats than Bob Baffert. That seems odd given the enormous success he has had in the series. He obviously learned along the way as he did everything perfectly with American Pharoah. His team including Jim and Dana Barnes all deserve a ton of credit.

American Pharoah won the two year old Eclipse Award without competing in The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to a setback. He returned to racing with an aluminum pad on one hoof but it was reported to be primarily for protection of his foot. Missing The Juvenile was probably a blessing. The record of success of Juvenile winners in The Triple Crown series is not the best. It’s a tough race and end to a two year old campaign and to follow it with a Kentucky Derby trail run hasn’t proved the road to success.

Bob Baffert chose the Arkansas route to The Triple Crown trail for American Pharoah. Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby has proven to be a fine prep for Kentucky. Between The Rebel and Arkansas Derby Pharoah ran maybe 100 yards combined, winning both contests easily. He ran a hard race from a wide post in the Derby but he needed that kind of effort at the time. He smoked ’em again in Baltimore and as a result entered The Belmont as a still relatively fresh horse. That is very different than most of the others who were showing signs of wear and tear by the time they got to New York. American Pharoah was gaining weight and looking fresh and game. Everything went perfect for him during the series and that along with a special horse is what it takes. He was so fresh he was able to breeze twice between The Preakness and The Belmont.

Following The Belmont American Pharoah looked great. He was hardly blowing and looked like he could go around again, or run back next weekend. I’d have to say Victor Espinoza, who rode a flawless race, albeit made a lot easier by no early pace challenges, summed things up best when the outriders microphone caught him say “holy shit” as he pulled American Pharoah up.


High 5

Bob Baffert, what a job, Jim and Dana Barnes, ditto, Ahmed and Justin Zayat, won with the same grace they showed during the tough beats, weathered all storms, Martin Garcia, all team, Brian Beach and Victor Espinoza, what a team and job, Ed De Rosa of Brisnet “American Pharoah can win The Triple Crown” said prior to The Kentucky Derby, Jon White, “ American Pharoah can win The Triple Crown” said before The Kentucky Derby and last but not least by any means, Honor Code and Shug, that was some Met Mile that you snuck in there.

Low 5

I fail to see how it is alright for Andy Serling to go on At The Races with Steve Byk during one of the biggest weeks in racing history, let alone anytime, and call horse players who miss something about a Dale Romans horse, or who see it another way idiots. Completely unacceptable. A disgrace in my opinion and I am sure many others agree. I am sorry to say Steve Byk has to share that low five as he laughed. I guess you can say what else could he do, well maybe nothing, but not laugh. I love and support the show for the most part but that was not cool. TVG if you can’t distinguish between a stake at Belmont and a maiden claimer at Santa Anita, do away with the split screen. It’s not working for you.

@jonathanstettin Another great look back by Jonathan at the king of the claimers Oscar Barrera.

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Comments

  1. GQ Jun 9, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Jonathan; Nice article… as always. I especially enjoy the “High 5” and “Low 5”. You’re spot on with this “Low 5”. Then again, you’re talking about a pompous jack-ass who revels being the Howard Cosell of the NYRA. So what he said does not surprises me in the least.

  2. Roger Adams Jun 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    For many years post Belmont racing has seemed paled, because the “almost” feeling just wasn’t good enough. If events do tend to happen in groups, then I am particularly excited for the 2yr old season ahead.

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