Updated on 06/11/2015 8:34AM

American Pharoah wins Belmont, becomes 12th Triple Crown winner

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Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza aboard, wins the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths Saturday, becoming racing's 12th Triple Crown winner.

ELMONT, N.Y. – To months in a year, inches in a foot, signs of the Zodiac, members of a jury, and days of Christmas, the number 12 now includes Triple Crown winners.

American Pharoah put an emphatic exclamation point on the 2015 Triple Crown with a runaway victory Saturday at Belmont Park in the 147th Belmont Stakes, romping by 5 1/2 lengths in front of a crowd of 90,000 that included former President Bill Clinton.

He thus ended the longest drought in Triple Crown history, 37 years, since Affirmed in 1978. And he proved that, indeed, this feat is achievable, as long as a horse comes along capable of doing it.

American Pharoah is only the fourth Triple Crown winner since 1948, when Citation swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont, the fourth horse to do so that decade. There was a 25-year gap until Secretariat in 1973, the first of three Triple Crown winners during that decade.

But in the years since Affirmed, 13 horses prior to American Pharoah had won Derby and Preakness but could not complete the sweep. The cumulative effect of three races in five weeks, plus the preps, proved too high a hurdle to clear.

American Pharoah cleared it and was the only horse this year who competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

This was the fourth attempt at a Triple Crown for trainer Bob Baffert, who had failed with Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and War Emblem. And it was the third try for Victor Espinoza, who failed with War Emblem and California Chrome.

Their failed bid 13 years ago in concert with War Emblem is now a fading memory, as American Pharoah – bred and owned by Ahmed Zayat – ran his way into the record books in a performance that left no doubt as to his superiority.

American Pharoah was rocking back and forth after loading into the gate, and a split-second before the gate opened, he started to go back again, but he still broke decently, then was hustled aggressively by Espinoza to make the lead before the runners reached the first turn.

“He kinda sat back, but in two jumps, he was right on the lead,” Espinoza said.

After that, it was a parade. “I had the best feeling ever on the first turn,” Espinoza said. American Pharoah combines raw speed with uncanny sensibility, and he rocked along on the front end setting comfortable fractions of 48.83 seconds for a half-mile, 1:13.41 for six furlongs, and 1:37.99 for a mile.

“You don’t even feel he is going that fast,” Espinoza said.

It was clear, midway on the final turn, that Espinoza had plenty of horse under him. Frosted got closest in upper stretch, but then Espinoza let American Pharoah storm home, and he put daylight between himself and the rest of the field with a final quarter-mile in 24.32 seconds to cover 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:26.65.

As the favorite, he paid $3.50 to win, but quite a few of those $2 win tickets will never be cashed and will instead become souvenirs.

Frosted held second, two lengths in front of third-place Keen Ice. Mubtaahij was fourth and was followed by Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve, and Materiality.

The win was the seventh straight for American Pharoah, who lost his debut last year and is unbeaten since. He was named the champion 2-year-old male of 2014 and has won all five of his starts this year.

Zayat bred American Pharoah by uniting his sire Pioneerof the Nile with his mare Littleprincessemma, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman.

“He’s just an amazing horse,” Espinoza said. “It’s unbelievable how things work out. I have so much confidence in American Pharoah.”

“Everybody came to see something great,” Baffert said at a post-race press conference, “and we witnessed it.”

For Baffert, a flood of emotions came over him. He watched the race with all five of his children – four from his first marriage and his young son, Bode – but said his thoughts during the race drifted to his parents, Bill Sr. and Ellie, both of whom died in recent years. His father, a trainer operating out of Nogales, Ariz., was instrumental in getting Baffert interested in racing. Baffert lovingly refers to him as “Chief.”

“This is very emotional,” Baffert told NBC’s Kenny Rice immediately after the race. “I was thinking about my parents. I wish they’d have been here to see this. People kept asking me how I’d feel. I didn’t know how I’d feel. Now I know.”

Baffert said the Triple Crown was swept by American Pharoah because “it takes a great horse to do it.”

“You have to have the horse,” he said. “He’s a very special horse. I didn’t win it. He’s the one that won it.”

When American Pharoah came back toward the grandstand after pulling up after the race, Espinoza took him all the way up the stretch so that fans seated throughout the grandstand could see him one last time before he headed to the winner’s circle. Just 20 miles from Manhattan, it was racing’s version of a Broadway bow.

As American Pharoah was brought down Belmont Park’s victory lane toward the winner’s circle, track announcer Larry Collmus introduced him to the crowd as “racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner,” and the fans let out an appreciative roar.

The winner’s circle was chaotic, with photographers pressing forward, security and other officials trying to hold them back, those associated with American Pharoah trying to position themselves for the winner’s-circle picture, and, in the midst of it all, a 3-year-old colt who, remarkably, never got anxious.

It had taken 37 years for this moment, and if it took a few more minutes to get a picture taken, American Pharoah was more than happy to oblige. He had done everything else.

 

Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
So at last the great Affirmed can finally step down, after guarding the Triple Crown with all due diligence these past 36 years. American Pharoah now dons his armor and takes up the duty under the watchful eyes of the previous 11 winners. The ghosts of those magnificent warriors are toasting this latest and most deserving member of racing's most exclusive club. Who knows how long it will be until we see another like him.
Katherine Wheat More than 1 year ago
Thanks to a highway instead of the Big Sandy, we have to put up with this result. Who will they annoint with all the breaks next year?
Thomas Mcdonough More than 1 year ago
How much did you lose?
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
She had materiality
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
This WAS the big sandy. That's why American Pharoah kept running 24 & change for every quarter. If it really was a fast track, he runs 23 & change for each quarter. Sorry your horse couldn't keep up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The biggest question is of the $85 mil belmont handle, how much dis the track officials keep? Over-under is $70 million. They hit a home run on this dat.
Gordon Amthor More than 1 year ago
In New York the take out retained by the track ranges from 16% for straight bets to 24% fo exotics like the trifecta. From this, a percentage goes to the daily "Purse Money".
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Great to watch this TC.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Have cajones,Point to the Arc.That would cap off greatness ala Dubai Millenium.I don't agree with handling of CC and I know its a stretch.It would validify his standing with the immortals to any doubters left.Try the Secretariat at Arlington first to check out his affinity.Didn't or doesn't Secretariat hold a World Record on grass?
Katherine Wheat More than 1 year ago
Don't be absurd. If he tried to run against real competition he would lose stud value. In reality that would be a good thing but don't expect it to happen.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
She had Materiality
Raymond Felder More than 1 year ago
it was a great race and iam happy for all the connections, and congratulate them. i was just looking for someone to run 23 46 or 22 45. i no that is fast but it didn"t happen. that was a great try from joel rosario with frosted, but those slow early fractions didn"t help him any. great race
James G Romano More than 1 year ago
In closing ,as a former DRF buyer who would purchase it about four time weekly,i feel that is trying to become,or has been, a "Tout' paper with these 'not to miss ' articles for which it wants to charge the average reader/gambler/mathematician/spot bettor even if the paper is the Most xpensive of All! Imagine the Wall Street Journal,one of america`s most popular/respected papers,if IT would charge for most articles dealing with Investment$/stocks/financial deals and reports,either in the probable making or already completed! Hello?Your paper and its info,is somewhat respected but not Irreplaceable or Indispensable.Few human beings ,and even less periodicals are..As a business owner ,if you try to 'squeeze' the patrons/customers,they`ll vanish and those who remain will Only be Temporary. ps; Still looking for your description of; Handicapper.It has to be more than just picking the top three ML favorite$,even if the Belmont was a cold Ml exacta of $13,how many exactas did it take most 'handicappers ' to cash that one...Ti`l next,maybe from Saratoga,where, thankfully, the ML is as meaningless as a slab of ham in a Bar Mitzvah. Addio!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The exacta was $13. However the track officials only paid out 20% of the pool. The rest they kept. And the public doesnt know, or care apperently.
Thomas Saracco More than 1 year ago
TAKEOUT INFORMATION Takeout (percentage of each dollar wagered retained by racetrack) • 15 percent – Pick 6 (non carryover pools) • 15 percent – Pick 5 • 16 percent – Win, Place, Show • 18.5 percent – Exacta, Quinella, Daily Double • 24 percent – Trifecta, Superfecta, Grand Slam, Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 6 (carryover pools) In the exacta pool. 18.5% went to NYRA. 81.5% went back to the bettors.
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Well said. DRF runs the risk of further losing its audience. They overreach in trying to be too many things. The main reason most read it would be the past performances; but there are other places to get that info as well. They seem to have an identity problem; stuck between the old school Luddites and the new social media: where the medium is the message.
Marie Jost More than 1 year ago
Where is the iconic "PEB" sketch for American Pharoah's Triple Crown? God, bless Pierre, certainly not on DRF.
Vick Harris More than 1 year ago
DRF+ stop being cheap and trying to charge for free info
Stevie Shugart More than 1 year ago
2015 'THE WAIT IS OVER'