After 37 years of waiting, it took a Pharoah to grab the Triple Crown.
With 90,000 on hand at Belmont Park, American Pharoah secured his place in racing history, capturing the Belmont Stakes and becoming the 12th horse to sweep the Triple Crown.
Fans from across the country gathered at Belmont Park roared as American Pharoah crossed the wire and rode off into the history books, etching his name with the likes of Citation, Secretariat and the previous Triple Crown champion, Affirmed.
American Pharoah took the lead the moment the gates opened and never looked back. He set moderate fractions as he looped his way around the 1 ½-mile Belmont oval, then kicked away from the rest of the field at the top of the stretch.
As Pharoah’s lead grew to 5 ½ lengths, the crowd in unison cheered loud enough to drown out track announcer Larry Collmus’ call and any other noise that could possibly be made. Once Pharoah crossed the finish line first, many in the crowd hugged and high-fived each other in celebration of the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
“This is for the sport after 37 years,” Ahmed Zayat, American Pharoah’s owner, said as he hoisted the triangular Triple Crown trophy later in the Belmont winner circle.
The victory also was vindication for trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza, who each brought other horses to Belmont Park over the last 18 years with a chance to win the Triple Crown, only to fail.
“Down the backside, he was in his groove, and I knew that if he’s a great horse, he’s going to do it,” Baffert said in a post-race interview on NBC. “I just feel like I have a very special horse and he’s the one that won.”
“I was coming to this race with so much confidence the last two times,” Espinoza said. “He broke a little step slowly, but in two jumps, I was right on the lead. That’s right where I want to be … I tell you, I had the best feeling ever when he crossed the first turn.”
American Pharoah, the 3-5 favorite, finished ahead of Frosted and Keen Ice, respectively. The final time for the 1 ½-mile classic, 2:26.65, was the sixth-fastest in Belmont Stakes history.