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American Pharoah Ends Triple Crown Drought

2015: American Pharoah: Now, in 2015 it’s American Pharoah's turn to either captivate the racing world with the first Triple Crown win since 1978, or just become another footnote in horse racing history. Lead by veteran jockey Victor Espinosa and trainer Bill Baffert, perhaps the time has finally come for new horse to enter racing lore, and become its 12th Triple Crown winner. The Belmont Stakes will be held on June 6th.

Victor Espinoza celebrates atop American Pharoah after winning the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, 2015 in Elmont, New York. With the win American Pharoah becomes the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years.

By Marion Algier – Just One More Pet

The Sport of Kings has its day after a 37 year drought.  As with most debates involving sports, there are varying reasons for the absence of a Triple Crown champion over the past 37 years. It has as much to do with bank accounts as bloodlines, yet trying to pinpoint the main reason is as elusive as the achievement itself.

NEW YORK (AP) — By mid-stretch, Bob Baffert said he knew it. American Pharoah was going to win the Triple Crown.

He took his eyes off the horse to soak in the crazed scene of the packed grandstand. Fans jumped up and down, hugged, and tossed drinks in the air.

The race wasn’t even over yet, but the crowd knew it, too. Thirty-seven years of waiting to see one of the rarest feats in sports was almost over.

"The crowd was just thundering and I was just enjoying the crowd and the noise and everything happening," the white-haired trainer said. "What a feeling."

Finally, a Triple Crown winner. And this one was never in doubt.

American Pharoah led all the way to win the Belmont Stakes by 5 lengths on Saturday, becoming the first horse since 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — one of the sporting world’s rarest feats.

"Wow! Wow!" jockey Victor Espinoza (age 43) said moments after crossing the finish line. "I can only tell you it is just an amazing thing."

The bay colt with the unusually short tail, chewed of by another horse, easily defeated seven rivals in the grueling 1 1/2-mile race, covering the distance in 2:26.65 — sixth-fastest in Belmont history — to end the longest stretch without a Triple Crown champion in history.

"That little horse, he deserved it," said Baffert, who at 62 is the second-oldest trainer of a Triple Crown winner. "He’s the one that did it. We were basically just passengers."

American Pharoah is the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win three races on different tracks at varying distances over a five-week span. He won the Derby by one length on May 2 and then romped to a seven-length victory in the rainy Preakness two weeks later before demolishing his rivals Saturday.

Baffert and Espinoza ended their own frustrating histories in the Triple Crown. Baffert finally won on his record fourth Triple try, having lost in 1997, 1998 (by a nose) and in 2002. Espinoza got it done with his record third shot after failing to win in 2002 and last year on California Chrome.

"I was prepared for somebody coming because I’ve been through this so many times," Baffert said.

Nobody did.

Espinoza hustled American Pharoah to the lead leaving the No. 5 post and quickly got him over to the rail. Materiality was on his outside in second, but never applied any serious pressure traveling along the backstretch before falling away on the second turn.

American Pharoah started kicking away heading into the final turn. He opened up on the field as he powered through the 1,097-yard stretch, displaying his fluid, springloaded stride in which he appears to float over the ground.

"It’s just an amazing feeling that you have when you’re 20 yards from the wire," Espinoza said. "And then at the wire I was like, `I cannot believe I did it.’"

American Pharoah ran the final quarter-mile — a stretch that has dashed numerous Triple Crown dreams — in 24.32 seconds, faster than Secretariat’s time of 25 seconds in winning the 1973 Belmont.

"That’s a hell of a horse," said jockey Gary Stevens (age 52), who finished seventh aboard Tale of Verve. "The race was over in the third jump from the gate."

After making his way back to the crowd, Espinoza took American Pharoah nearly the length of the sprawling grandstand so fans could pay their respects to the champion.

As the horses were heading to the starting gate, owner Ahmed Zayat was overflowing with confidence and turned to his wife.

"I told her, `Get ready to be the owner of the 12th Triple Crown winner,’" he said.

Baffert felt equally good, sensing American Pharoah was on the verge of a winning performance when he saddled the horse in the shady paddock.

American Pharoah is the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, but his biggest payday won’t be on a race track.  It will be in stud fees.

Prior to the Belmont, when he just had Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins, it was estimated that he would collect $60,000 to $75,000 per foal, so that kind of stud money means most successful racing careers are short.

California Chrome, who won the Derby and Preakness last year, hasn’t been put out to stud yet since his blood lines aren’t as prestigious. His stud fee is probably in the the neighborhood of $25,000.

So his owners decided to race him for another year. He went to the Dubai World Cup where he placed second, scoring another $2 million in winnings.

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It’s amazing to think that Secretariat’s Belmont time would’ve beaten American Pharoah by 15 lengths.

There Will Never Be Another Secretariat: Thank you, Miss Penny

American Pharoah’s jockey earns peanuts compared to other sports

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June 7, 2015 - Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Events | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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