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.”

Scott Samuel More than 1 year ago
This is a truly great story. It shows that Baffert is a class act and that his wife, Jill, is a class act as well. One of my bucket list items in life is to see American Pharoah. I have been a Baffert fan since Cavonnier in 1996. However, this last year has been extremely tough for me and my family as my brother passed away from Stage IV Brain Cancer, i.e. Glioblastoma Multiforme, on August 18, 2015. He was diagnosed on September 4, 2014, and he underwent chemotherapy and two craniotomies. Despite going to M.D. Anderson and to Sloan Kettering, he was unable to beat this horrible form of cancer. I was with him from his diagnosis to his death. While my brother and I were not close prior to his diagnosis, I became my brother's keeper. Following his second brain surgery, he became completely paralyzed and completely blind. He was never into racehorses as my father and I are, but prior to the Triple Crown, I asked my brother if Pharoah would win the Triple Crown. He told me "Yes, I have seen it." From there on out, I knew that Pharoah was going to win the triple crown. When Pharoah hit the half mile pole in the Belmont, tears began streaming down my face as I knew it was over. I called my brother and the nurse who was sitting with him put the phone up to his ear and I told him "You were right, Pharoah did it." In my brother's typical fashion, he glibly replied, "I know, I already told you that I saw it." After that, it has become a bucket list item for me to meet Pharoah. Hopefully, God willing, I will get to see Pharoah at his new home. To Joshua and his family, I am glad that Joshua got to see Pharoah following his TC win. I am sure that he will never forget it. To Joshua's parents, you did something for your son that brings tears to my eyes.
Carrie Drake More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story..
Robert Clayton More than 1 year ago
American Pharoah is the coolest horse ever, I've never seen a horse who is so chill like him, he seems to get how cool he is and just goes with the flow
Anne Doolin More than 1 year ago
I was on the side of the crush of media/fans where young Joshua and his parents were. Worth noting it was Justin Zayat that came through the crowd and helpd Joshua out of his wheelchair so he could walk to the champ. And yes, it's true. Lot of weepy eyes among everyone there. Pharoah is beyond a tremendous racehorse - he's an inspiration.
Victoria More than 1 year ago
It's really hard to keep One's eyes dry seeing how this horse touches people.. American Pharoah is something special.
Joel Adelman More than 1 year ago
At Ride On Therapeutic Ranch in Los Angeles we make these wonderful moments real every day. Thanks to Jill Baffert for this good deed happen.
April Doornbos More than 1 year ago
So I had heard Bob had changed somewhat after his heart attack and like the Grinch I guess it too grew 3 sizes , about time , he has so much to be grateful for
Lynne Hayes More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story. Wonderful boy and animal connection. Would LOVE to see American Pharoah become the face of Thoroughbred horse rescue. He would make a wonderful ambassador to those race horses who do not win the Triple Crown, come in first or become studs in retirement. He could be the voice of those who finish out of the money but are no less important or valuable. With Pharoah's charisma and popularity, that could in fact, be his true legacy.
Helaine More than 1 year ago
Great story racing needs more moments like this.
Steve More than 1 year ago
Great, great story and you can see Ahmed Zayat in the picture looking on