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    American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes (G1) before a sold-out crowd of 90,000 at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY and becomes only the 12th horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes—the elusive Triple Crown. Finally, the 37-year Triple Crown drought is over! Race fans can thank the Zayat Stables homebred American Pharoah, along with his jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert, for an impressive finish to the three-race Classic series.

    Not since Affirmed won the Belmont Stakes in 1978 have racing fans seen a horse that could win these three tough races in just five weeks. The win marks the first time trainer Bob Baffert has been able to secure the Triple Crown in four attempts, having lost tries in 1997 with Silver Charm, in 1998 with Real Quiet, who lost by a nose, and War Emblem in 2002. Jockey Victor Espinoza’s previous Triple Crown attempts came with War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014; proving the third time is the charm.

    Winning trainer Bob Baffert, who had his five children and wife with him at the race, said on his way to the winner's circle, "I'm feeling very emotional. I'm thinking about my parents. I wish they were alive to see this. I was hoping it would happen and didn't know how it would feel and now I know." 

    "It's just an unbelievable thing how things work out," said winning rider Espinoza. "Just an amazing horse like American Pharoah. I was coming to this race so much more confident than the last two times. I felt great in the jock's room and I drank some Monster and I felt so good I said, 'I hope American Pharoah feels like me!'" 

    Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, American Pharoah didn't break sharply from the gate, but it made no difference as the son of Pioneerof the Nile took the lead and set a moderate pace of 24:06 for the first quarter and maintained a steady pace throughout the race before quickening to a pace of 24:32 in the final quarter-mile. Frosted and Materiality sat just off his lead with Mubtaahij, Keen Ice and Madefromlucky just behind. Tale of Verve and Frammento were at the back as the field of eight began the 1 1/2 mile route. Not much changed through much of the race, with American Pharaoh easily able to hold his lead and run without pressure. As the field turned for home, Frosted looked like the likeliest opponent to challenge American Pharoah, but as they reached the top of the stretch, American Pharoah had kicked on to a two-length lead and went on to win over Frosted by 5 1/2 lengths, the third largest winning margin in Belmont Stakes history.

    Keen Ice was 2 lengths back in third. It was just a margin of a neck to fourth place finisher Mubtaahij. Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality completed the order of finish.

    "We knew we had the horse. We hoped we had the horse," said Baffert. "Once Victor got him in the clear and got him into that beautiful mode of the way he just goes over the ground, I just loved every fraction. I saw 1:13 and change; I loved that. I was talking to [my wife] Jill the whole way around there and turning for home, I was preparing for somebody coming because I've been through this so many times. I was just hoping for once and I could tell at the eighth pole that it was going to happen.

    "Thirty-seven years we've waited for this but, you know what, this little horse he deserves it. He's just a great horse and the way he's been all winter and this spring has been incredible."

    The Kiaran McLaughlin trained Frosted, the Wood Memorial (G1) winner who covered a lot of ground quickly to capture fourth place in the Kentucky Derby in his last start before the Belmont, went off as the 4-1 second choice and appeared the most likely horse capable of pulling the upset. But there was no stopping American Pharoah on his way into the history books.

    "My horse ran great, but the horse everybody expected to win won the race," said Frosted's jockey, Joel Rosario. "My horse ran really great and we got second place. It's exciting because we have not seen this for so long and the winner really looked brilliant. My horse showed that he is a really nice horse and there will be lots of races down the road for him."

    Todd Pletcher's Materiality, who followed American Pharoah in second place through the first half of the Belmont, was finished before the field had rounded the final turn, dropped back and finished last, beaten over 20 lengths.

    "American Pharoah is a great horse, that's the only way you can describe him," said Materiality's rider John Velazquez. "My horse ran as good as he could but he was done early. The best horse won the race. He's obviously a great horse to do all the things he's done race after race, you have to take your hat off to him."

    American Pharoah returned $3.50, $2.80, and $2.50. Frosted paid $3.50 and $2.900 and completed the $2 exacta for $13.60. Keen Ice paid $4.60 and completed the $2 trifecta for $109.50. Mubtaahij completed the $2 superfecta for $570.00. The final time for the 1 1/2 mile race over the fast track was 2:26.65.

    American Pharoah will return to Louisville's Churchill Downs Sunday afternoon and to the twin spires aglow in the colors of owner Zayat Stables' turquoise and yellow silks. American Pharoah will be honored Saturday, June 13 as part of the Downs After Dark Stephen Foster Handicap night of racing. Traditionally, the connections of the Kentucky Derby winner receive their engraved Kentucky Derby trophies in a ceremony between races. Although final plans have not been formally announced, American Pharoah is expected to also make an appearance before the crowd.

    Photo: Adam Creech

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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