Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes by 5½ 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.
He is the first American Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and only the twelfth horse to capture the title in history.
After 37 years of waiting since Affirmed captured the title in 1978, some observers said this one was never in doubt.
“I can only tell you it just an amazing thing,” said jockey Victor Espinoza moments after crossing the finish line.
The bay colt with the unusually short tail easily defeated seven rivals in the grueling 1½-mile race, covering the distance in 2:26.65 to end the longest period with a Triple Crown champion in history.
American Pharoah is the 12th horse 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.
“He’s as sweet as a horse you’ll ever come by,” said Justin Zayat, racing manager for his father, Egyptian-born owner Ahmed Zayat, who bred the colt. “You could bring kids up to him, and he’ll just put his head on them. He knows who he is. I call him a humble champion.”
American Pharoah joined the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners 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.
Since 1978, the rigors of the Triple Crown had done in 13 other horses who won the Derby and the Preakness – 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 champions.
American Pharoah began his 2015 campaign with wins in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby and went on to win both the 2015 Kentucky Derby and 2015 Preakness Stakes.
American Pharoah’s name includes a permanent but inadvertent misspelling of “Pharaoh”
Marsha Baumgartner of Barnett, Missouri, who submitted the winning entry in a social media contest that allowed fans to submit names for the horse, minimized the controversy, saying, “Horses can’t spell, anyway.”
Figuring prominently and repeatedly in American Pharoah’s deep lineage is an earlier generation of champions, including Nasrullah,[o] Native Dancer,[p] Nearco,[q] Princequillo,[r] War Admiral[s] and Man o’ War.[t]
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