By now, the world knows that American Pharoah is a true Thoroughbred racing champion and twelfth winner of the elusive Triple Crown. But behind all the trophies is the story of a special horse with a great pedigree, a powerful team, a sweet disposition and a heart of gold.
Bred in Kentucky and owned by Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables, LLC, American Pharoah is trained by Bob Baffert and ridden in the majority of races by jockey Victor Espinoza. The Bay colt is from the second crop of foals sired by Zayat’s stallion Pioneerof the Nile and dam Littleprincessemma.
Initially, these foals were unproven but American Pharoah stood out as a beautiful horse with good size, amazing speed and innate intelligence. Zayat thought selling him would make a statement at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sales and increase the value of Pioneerof the Nile for breeding. However, the sales reserve of $1 million was not looking like it would be met and Zayat was having regrets. He decided right then to buy American Pharoah back, saying he had second thoughts in the middle of the sale and a feeling the horse was special. He paid $300,000 and took Pharoah back home.
Other industry insiders noticed “special” things about American Pharoah also, like his long stride, his quick intelligence and his demeanor of kindness and curiosity. Plus, he was very fast. The training continued with much anticipation.
American Pharoah’s Maiden race fell short. Seemingly agitated and distracted by the crowd, he was basically overwhelmed with the experience, much to everyone’s disappointment.
The Zayat team did not give up, however. Trainer Bob Baffert placed blinders on the uneasy horse and cotton balls in his ears to decrease noise. Then, they began schooling him heavily in the paddock and working to get him comfortable with racing. It did not take long for American Pharoah to not only acclimate– but to find his destiny– and he has won every race since!
Favored in the 141st Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah won the race in 2:03:02, winning by a length. At the Preakness, in a last minute rainstorm right before post time, he sloshed brilliantly over the track beating the field by an easy seven lengths to claim victory, capturing the second leg of the Triple Crown. The world held its collective breath, silently wishing for a victory for the beloved Thoroughbred, but nervously aware of those who have failed before over a span of 37 years.
American Pharaoh did not disappoint. Gaining speed as the race went on, he handily won by 5 ½ lengths and took the win and the Triple Crown and etched his name into history in front of an adoring crowd of 102,199 fans.
By Anastasia Austen, Staff Writer