Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 8th 2015 Contents A50
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, June 8, 2015
NEW YORK---By mid-stretch, Bob
Baffert 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,
and the crowd knew it, too. Thir-
ty-seven years of waiting to see one
of the rarest feats in sports was
"The crowd was just thundering
and I was just enjoying the crowd
and the noise and everything hap-
pening," 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 ½
lengths on Saturday, becoming the
first horse since 1978 to sweep the
Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Bel-
mont Stakes---one of the sporting
world s rarest feats.
"Wow! Wow!" jockey Victor
Espinoza said moments after cross-
ing the finish line. "I can only tell
you it is just an amazing thing."
The bay colt with the unusually
short tail easily defeated seven rivals
in the grueling 1 1/2-mile race, cov-
ering 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 sec-
ond-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
Baffert and Espinoza ended their
own frustrating histories in the
Triple Crown. Baffert finally won
on his record fourth Triple try, hav-
ing 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 Cal-
"I was prepared for somebody
coming because I ve been through
this so many times," Baffert said.
Espinoza hustled American
Pharoah to the lead leaving the No.
5 post and quickly got him over to
the rail. Materiality was on his out-
side 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
Gary Stevens, 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 champi-
on.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 win-
ner, " 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 pad-
"I said to put him on the lead and
go for it, and if he doesn t make it,
don t worry about it," the trainer
said, "but he just kept on rocking
Sent off as the overwhelming 3-
5 favourite, American Pharoah paid
$3.50, $2.80 and $2.50.
Frosted returned $3.50 and $2.90,
while Keen Ice was another two
lengths back in third and paid $4.60
Mubtaahij was fourth, followed
by Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale
of Verve and Materiality.
American Pharoah delivered a vic-
tory for the Egyptian-born Zayat,
who bred the colt and put him up
for sale before buying him back for
$300,000. His name came from the
family s online contest, in which a
woman from Missouri submitted
the winning moniker, but the mis-
spelling---it should be pharaoh---
wasn t noticed until the name was
American Pharoah joined the
exclusive club of Triple Crown win-
ners Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox
(1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral
(1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count
Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation
(1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle
Slew (1977) and Affirmed.
A sign with American Pharoah s
name and silks was quickly put up
in the infield next to the 11 other
Triple Crown winners.
The crowd of 90,000---capped to
avoid overcrowding and long lines
from last year s total of 102,199---
roared as American Pharoah turned
It s unlikely the champion heard
them since American Pharoah wears
ear plugs to block noise that might
get him worked up.
Since 1978, the rigors of the Triple
Crown had done in 13 other horses
who won the Derby and the Preak-
ness---with 12 losing the third leg
and I ll Have Another scratched with
a leg injury in 2012. Their failures
left the sport and its fans craving a
worthy successor to the 11 previous
American Pharoah---his tail short-
ened after being bitten off on a farm
when he was a youngster---turned
out to be that horse.
"I was really getting to dislike this
trophy---it s come with a lot of mis-
ery," Baffert said of the sterling silver
Triple Crown trophy housed for the
last 37 years in the Kentucky Derby
"But it s owed to the fans of New
York that kept paying their money,
showing up, hoping. They finally
Unlike Affirmed, who dueled Aly-
dar in all three races, American
Pharoah didn t have a specific rival
since he was the only horse to run
in all three Triple Crown races.
Going into the Belmont, American
Pharoah had beaten all of his seven
And when the race known as
"The Test of the Champion" came?
He passed, with flying colours.
to an equine hero
Victor Espinoza reacts after crossing the finish line with
American Pharoah (5) to win the 147th running of the
Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park,
Saturday.American Pharoah is the first horse to win the
Triple Crown since Affirmed won it in 1978. AP PHOTO
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