American Pharoah crowned in Belmont Stakes
American Pharoah crowned in Belmont Stakes!
American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) romped an easy winner of the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday to end a 37-year drought and become the 12th Triple Crown winner.
The Zayat Stables homebred was 5 1/2 lengths clear of his closest rival on the wire while finishing 1 1/2 miles over the fast Belmont Park dirt in 2:26.65.
"What a feeling," trainer Bob Baffert said. "It's probably going to take a few days to sink in. I had my kids here and they got to enjoy it. This is going to be the moment, we'll never forget this.
"The crowd was just thundering and I was just enjoying the call and the crowd, the noise, and everything happening. Thirty-seven years we've waited for this but, you know what, this little horse he deserves it. He's just a great horse. He's a dream come true. I don't know if I'll ever have another horse like that."
American Pharaoh is truly a family affair for Ahmed Zayat, who purchased the colt's dam as a yearling and named her Littleprincessemma (Yankee Gentleman) after his daughter. The mare, who is a half-sibling to Grade 2 winner Storm Wolf (Stormin Fever) and Grade 3 victress Misty Rosette (Stormin Fever), sold last November in foal to American Pharoah's full brother for $2.1 million.
That full brother's name: Irish Pharaoh.
American Pharaoh passed through the sales ring himself, but was a buyback at $300,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected yearling.
"I don't think it sunk in yet," Zayat said. "He looked unbelievably focused. Honest. Relaxed. Full of energy. He moves like a Ferrari, he runs like Ferrari. At this juncture it's about defining the greatness of American Pharoah.
"We all wanted it," he admitted. "We wanted it for the sport. So I'm happy for the horse, for the fans. This is not about none of us, this is about American Pharoah and what this means to our beautiful sport."
American Pharoah immediately took command of the Belmont Stakes under jockey Victor Espinoza when the gates opened and loped along under his own power through splits of :24.03, :48.83, 1:13.41, 1:37.99 and 2:02.33. Materiality (Afleet Alex) kept in close attendance on his outside in the tight-knit group but began falling back as American Pharoah hit the turn.
Frosted (Tapit), who saved ground with a rail trip sitting directly behind American Pharoah, angled out entering the stretch and attempted to make a run at the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) winner. That gray colt could never make up any ground, though, as American Pharoah finally kicked into gear and began pulling away to the roar of the sold-out crowd packing Belmont Park's stands.
The bay colt easily proved best when crossing under the line to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"When I saddled him in the paddock, I told Victor that he was ready. Go ahead and ride him with confidence and he did," Baffert said. "That's the only way, ride him with extreme confidence, put him on the lead, go for it. If he doesn't make it, don't worry about it, we tried. But he just kept on rocking and rolling."
"He was ready today," Espinoza agreed. "As soon as I sat in the saddle, there was so much power and so much energy this horse had. I'm telling you in the first turn it was the best feeling I've ever had.
"I was so concentrated on this horse (in the stretch). I've been here three times. Turning for home, this has not happened yet, I wanted to cross the wire. I just grabbed the reins and he just took off. It's just an amazing feeling that you have when you're 20 yards from the wire and you're like three or four lengths in front. At the wire I was like, 'I cannot believe I did it.'"
Both Baffert and Espinoza are passing on their good fortunes. Espinoza is donating all of his earnings from the winner's share to the City of Hope, a cancer treatment and research hospital in Southern California. Baffert and his wife, Jill, are donating $50,000 each to four charities: the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, CARMA of California, Old Friends and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
American Pharoah was sent off the heavy 3-4 favorite and paid $3.50 for the win. Frosted was second by two lengths over Keen Ice (Curlin), while Mubtaahij (Dubawi) just missed the top three when a neck farther back in fourth. Frammento (Midshipman), the 21-1 longshot, came next and was followed under the wire by Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky), Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) and Materiality.
American Pharoah has now earned $4,530,300 from a 8-7-0-0 career line. The bay colt only loss came in his career debut over Del Mar's synthetic Polytrack last August 9, when he ran fifth. He quickly made up for that with a front-running victory in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) next out and thus began his quest for Triple Crown glory.
After another wire job, this time in the FrontRunner S. (G1) at Santa Anita, American Pharoah began preparing for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) over that same track. Unfortunately, he was an early scratch from that contest due to a deep foot bruise in his left front. His early season exploits were still enough for him to take home the Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old male and, a few months later, became the first juvenile champion to win the Kentucky Derby since Street Sense in 2007.
That may have been a portend of another record that would fall, but first American Pharoah had to begin his three-year-old campaign. He kicked off 2015 in style, romping in the sloppy Rebel S. (G2) over a sealed track at Oaklawn Park by 6 1/4 lengths, then proved just as dominant on Oaklawn's fast dirt with an eight-length tour de force in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Those were the only two races he had this year leading up to the Kentucky Derby, and was in tip-top shape in the Run for Roses. The Kentucky-bred bay saw his smallest margin of victory to date when scoring by a length, but returned with vengeance two weeks later at Pimlico to take the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths.
The past three weeks have been all Pharoah, all the time as excitement built for his run at history in the Belmont. Track officials announced early a cap of 90,000 for the attendance, ensuring a sell-out of all tickets to the main event, which would be Baffert fourth attempt at Triple Crown glory and Espinoza's third.
It all came together in a beautiful New York moment as American Pharoah romped home the 12th Triple Crown winner.
Zayat said American Pharoah will likely run again this year, but stud rights to the colt have already been sold to Coolmore and he'll probably be retired at the end of the season.
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