By Kevin Martin
Finally! After thirty-seven years and twelve attempts ended in the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah has done what many thought might never happen again. On Saturday evening, he joined the elite list of Triple Crown winners with a resounding victory in the Belmont in New York. American Pharoah is now the twelfth Triple Crown winner in American racing history.
Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza - after missing on a combined five opportunities to sweep the Triple Crown in New York - join an exclusive club of human connections who have conditioned and rode a single winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd on a perfect day in New York, a field of eight colts broke from the gate in the Belmont Stakes around 6:50pm and it took a little under two-and-a-half minutes for American Pharoah to run into racing immortality. He went to the front soon after the break and never looked back.
With Materiality close behind in second, American Pharoah looked relaxed as he set a manageable pace with his beautiful stride on the backstretch. Materiality faded after pulling to within a half length around the final turn.
As American Pharoah turned into the final stretch, Frosted advanced to within a length of the front runner but by the time they hit the final eighth mile, the winner started to pull away. The crowd roared as he opened up an insurmountable lead deep in the stretch. A jubilant, and no doubt relieved, Victor Espinoza pumped his fist soon after crossing the finish line. It was Espinoza’s third time in the Belmont Stakes riding a colt with a Triple Crown on the line.
After the race, an emotional Bob Baffert thanked the owner of American Pharoah but he also thanked the owners of his three colts that just missed the Triple Crown in 1997, 1998, and 2002. He is now the tenth trainer in American history to saddle a Triple Crown winner.
Bob Baffert and Ahmed Zayat told reporters that American Pharoah would race again but will likely retire to stand at stud at year’s end. The Zayats confirmed last month that he will stand at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky at the end of his racing career. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but significant incentives were attached if he won the Triple Crown.
American Pharoah finished the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes in 2:26.65 -- the sixth fastest time in the race’s 147 year history and one-fifth of a second faster than Affirmed when he won the Triple Crown in 1978. His 5 1/2 length margin of victory is the third largest among the now twelve Triple Crown winners with only Secretariat and Count Fleet winning by a larger margin.
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