11/02/2015 2:51PM

Bafferts help dream become reality for one American Pharoah fan

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Barbara D. Livingston
Joshua Griffin meets Triple Crown winner American Pharoah on Sunday morning at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Joshua Griffin reached up and touched American Pharoah on Sunday morning at Keeneland, and the pure joy on his face, the squeals of delight, brought his parents to tears. American Pharoah may have been favored in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but the thought of meeting American Pharoah, well, they thought that was a longshot.

Joshua is 15. He lives in Texas, and he has cerebral palsy.

Two months ago, his mother, Melanie, sent a letter to trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita, telling him what a fan Joshua had become of racing in general and American Pharoah in particular and asking if there was any chance they could see American Pharoah before he headed off to retirement at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud. When they heard back from Baffert’s wife, Jill, that the Bafferts would try to make it happen at the Breeders’ Cup, well, there was no keeping Melanie, her husband, Jeff, and Joshua from Keeneland last weekend.

On Sunday morning, it happened. Bob Baffert brought American Pharoah outside for the large crowd of media and fans outside Barn 62, then looked around and said, “Where is he?” before spotting the Griffins and bringing American Pharoah over to Joshua.

On a cloudy morning, his smile was like the wattage from the sun. His parents unsuccessfully fought back tears, as did many who saw the scene unfold. Joshua also got to touch American Pharoah when he was in his stall.

“There are certain things that Josh can’t do,” Melanie Griffin said later. “This was very special. Jill made it happen.”

Melanie Griffin said that after she and Jeff went to the Kentucky Derby a few years ago, Joshua – the youngest of their five children – became keenly interested in racing, so ever since then, the Triple Crown has been must-see TV in their house.

They were disappointed the previous year when California Chrome came up short in the Belmont, so badly did they want to see a horse clinch the Triple Crown.

“We told Josh it doesn’t happen very often,” Melanie said. “When it did this year, he was very happy.”

And so began their quest to try to see American Pharoah in person.

“Jill was so nice to make it happen,” Melanie said. “Joshua has ridden horses since he was 2 for therapy. He loves horses.”

None more so, though, than American Pharoah.

“This was very, very nice of them,” Jeff Griffin said. “Very kind.”