Appreciation for American Pharoah

August 28, 2015 01:05am
American Pharoah and Victor Espinoza at Santa Anita
Photo: Benoit Photo

Admit it. You have said something along the lines of the statement, “We have a Triple Crown winner,” over and over since the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in hopes that you would eventually become accustomed to the reality. After 37 long years of waiting, American Pharoah put an end to the drought, sweeping the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and Belmont Stakes to the overwhelming elation of racing fans.

At last, the horse we had been waiting for arrived. For nearly four decades, the racing industry had been yearning for a horse that could join the immortals. Finally, American Pharoah came along and gave racing enthusiasts exactly that.

Nevertheless, plenty of naysayers remain. While most of the racing community wishes that we could enjoy this horse for a longer amount of time, some say the horse’s connections are taking too great of a risk by continuing to race him at all. And now that “the one” has finally arrived, many cynics refuse to believe it.

Far too often, we reluctantly bid farewell to the stars of the Triple Crown – horses that have failed to accomplish what American Pharoah has but that nonetheless impressed in the prestigious series. Horses like Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and I’ll Have Another won two legs of the Triple Crown but never raced again due to injury.

Such injuries are certain to instill worry that American Pharoah could become injured as well. Unfortunately, this is a risk all racehorses must face. But risk is involved in all facets of life. Fans should take comfort in knowing American Pharoah is receiving the best care possible for a racehorse, and his connections make his well-being the top priority.

Another risk some believe American Pharoah is taking by continuing to race is losing. These doubters believe that the horse’s popularity would drop immensely if he were to lose a race. But the horse would certainly become less popular among non-racing fans if he were to stop racing entirely. This aside, even Secretariat lost twice after the Triple Crown but still to this day is immensely adored.

Some bettors even resent American Pharoah for his low, unprofitable odds and, like those who deem it best for him to retire now to allow him to go out a winner, they want his career to end now. But the point of having a horse like American Pharoah in our sport is not to make money off of him; rather it is to enjoy his brilliance.

His connections’ decision to continue to race him has proven to be rewarding for the racing industry, as evident in the crowds that showed up not only to watch him race in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) but the throngs of fans that flocked to the track in the mornings just to see him train or to see him parade publicly. Even if American Pharoah were to lose a race and therefore cause his fame and attraction to suffer, he has done wonders for racing.

However, it does not look as though he will lose anytime soon. Of course, anything can happen – especially in horse racing – but the colt has shown that his talent far exceeds that of his competitors. Yet, some refuse to rank him among the all-time greats. Despite accomplishing what hasn’t been done in 37 years, many a pessimist refuse to label American Pharoah with the word “great.” But what else does the son of Pioneerof the Nile have to prove?

American Pharoah was impressive enough as a two-year-old to earn the Eclipse Award for Champion Two-Year-Old Male with dominant victories in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) despite missing the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) due to injury. Prior to the Triple Crown, he captured the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) by a combined 14 ¼ lengths. While he had to fight to win the Kentucky Derby, he effortlessly took the Preakness by 7 lengths before making history by 5 ½ lengths in the Belmont. His final time of 2:26.65 in the Test of the Champion was the second-fastest Belmont time for a Triple Crown winner – falling short only to Secretariat – and the sixth-fastest Belmont of all-time. In his first start since his Triple Crown triumph, American Pharoah conquered the Haskell with ease. Passing his rivals as though they were standing still, the bay colt finished the race in a time just .95 seconds behind the track record despite winning under wraps.

On Saturday, the colt will compete in the most prestigious race of the latter half of the season for sophomores when he goes to post against nine other opponents in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at historic Saratoga Race Course. This race will have fans holding their breath and crossing their fingers for many reasons, among them trainer Bob Baffert’s one-for-five record in the Travers and Saratoga’s reputation as the “Graveyard of Champions.”

However, American Pharoah has made it clear that he is head and shoulders above the rest. He has been unbeatable in every race since his debut, and aside from his gritty Derby victory, he has won each race with utter effortlessness. His accomplishments far exceed those of most horses we have seen over the past four decades and because of his greatness, a fire has been ignited within racing, drawing masses of fans to the track and millions of television viewers who crave to witness an athlete that will one day be known as a legend. Someday, we will relay these stories of American Pharoah – the hero of our generation – to those who weren’t yet born to enjoy him. Let’s enjoy him while we can.


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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and is an intern at WinStar Farm with a client relations and marketing focus, as well as some bloodstock duties.

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a racing manager or client relations specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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