As American Pharoah was making the final turn and coming down the home stretch, you could feel it. History was about to be made and it was a “by how much?” rather than a “can he get it done?” type of situation. The crowd was going nuts and announcer Larry Collmus boasted out as American Pharoah crossed the finish line “The 37-year wait is over” and the rest was history.
After basically leading wire to wire, American Pharoah became the 12th horse and the first since Affirmed won in 1978 to become a winner of the Triple Crown, one of the toughest feats to accomplish in all of sports. Being that a horse only has one shot to do this, makes it that much more incredible.
Horse Racing hasn’t necessarily been on the front of newspapers or the lead story on Sports Center very often (or at all), but for the first time in 37-years, there is a reason for the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown to be talked about.
People don’t realize how special this really is. Stuff like this doesn’t happen every year and it hasn’t even happened in my lifetime. This incredible feat could be something that only happens a limited number of times in people’s lives and it should be appreciated as one of the rarest feats in all of sports. That’s how special this stuff is.
American Pharoah ran himself into racing immortality Saturday, and finished the race 5½ lengths ahead of the next closest thoroughbred. It was the sixth fastest time recorded in the Belmont Stakes and he even overcame a slow first step to control the race for the basically the entire 1½ miles. It was quite impressive as his jockey didn’t use the whip once during the race.
For jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert, this is why they get into this business. They have both been fairly successful in this generation of horse racing that hasn’t had a Triple Crown until June 6th, 2015. Espinoza and Baffert both have won their fair share of Triple Crown races, but obviously have never shut the door and won all three. Now, these two go into the history books after a long wait.
Espinoza is the first jockey to get three shots at the Triple Crown, and this time around, the third time was the charm.
“Turning for home, I was like, ‘This has not happened yet,'” said jockey Victor Espinoza. “It’s just an amazing feeling that you have when you’re 20 yards from the wire. And then at the wire, I was like, ‘I cannot believe I did it.'”
As for trainer Bob Baffert, he has only won one previous Belmont Stakes in his career, but this one carried just a little bit more weight.
“We knew we had the horse. We were hoping we had the horse,” Baffert said. “Once Victor got him in the clear and he got in that beautiful mode the way he goes over the ground, I loved every fraction.”
It was a magical afternoon in Elmont, NY and the crowd really appreciated the moment. Watching a Triple Crown winner on TV is one thing, but seeing it in person is just a whole other feeling that I’m sure will never be forgotten for anyone in attendance.
“The crowd was just thundering,” Baffert said. “I was enjoying the crowd and the noise and everything happening.”
In the end, Victor Espinoza couldn’t have summed it up any better when NBC microphones caught him saying, “holy sh*t” because horse racing feats and sports feats, in general, don’t get accomplished like this very often, or at least for 37 years. The “Test of the champion,” as the Belmont Stakes is pegged as, turned out to be an A+ for this thoroughbred as American Pharoah ran into the history books.
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub