Something to Rally Behind: American Pharoah

The Life

American Pharoah inspired racing fans and the general public with his historic Belmont win. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Every year we wait with anticipation as the Triple Crown approaches, and then (for the past 37 years) we have been left disappointed by yet another year with no winner. Some great horses with wonderful backstories have run throughout those 37 years, and these animals and their connections have succeeded in creating a buzz about the “toughest trophy in sports.”

When a horse wins both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, as has happened in 13 of those years, the idea of a Triple Crown becomes a tangible reality. And yet, that famous trophy continued to collect dust.

This year is different. We have something to rally behind.

During last year’s Triple Crown bid, California Chrome, a horse who seemed to have every factor working against him, accomplished two-thirds of the formidable trio of races, and captured the hearts of many in the process in a classic Cinderella story. Easily recognizable by the large white blaze on his chestnut face, his nasal strip controversy, and striking purple and green silks, all things Chrome related became the inspirations for fan costumes, art, and, of course, temporary tattoos claiming, “Chromie is my homie.” It was a feel-good story, and a demonstration of luck in a game where luck reigns supreme.

This year, it seemed that in general fans were more cautious. It’s understandable. We had a similar experience just last year. We didn’t want to have our hearts broken again so soon. As horse racing fans, we’ve gone through a lot of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pints trying to deal with that Triple Crown heartbreak. American Pharoah would be the first horse to win the coveted title since 1978, and, potentially on the cusp of history, the horse racing world held its breath.

When we exhaled, it was in the form of screaming and crying. There was probably some jumping up and down and hugging of strangers in there too (guilty).


Photo courtesy of Acacia Courtney

This year was my first year attending all three Triple Crown races, and I think I certainly picked a good year to do it. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I got to witness history, not just at the end, but throughout the entire journey. Each race is distinct in its own way, with different traditions, stories, and energy. And I don’t just mean mint julep versus black-eyed Susan.

For me, the Kentucky Derby was a great race, but there were several other horses in the field that also impressed me, namely Firing Line, Dortmund, and Frosted. It was after the Preakness that I realized I was seeing something special. Although I admittedly had my doubts going into the Belmont, as did many, there can be no question that American Pharoah has successfully placed himself in the category of a “great” horse.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how this Triple Crown success story will affect the world of horse racing. Some say it will save the sport, some say it won’t. I think that it will create some much needed buzz for a while, but then we need to keep working on new ways to bring in new fans. I think it should be evident by now that there is no one single solution that will “save” our sport, the Triple Crown included.

Realistically, my hope is that people who tuned in just for the Triple Crown will be curious to see how American Pharoah does as he continues his career. Hopefully the horse will remain healthy and sound, and can be a part of bringing some much needed attention to the races run by older horses. His story of success is one that we can continue to follow and believe in. To remind us that greatness is in fact possible.

On a different note, this weekend is the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, a 1 1/8-mile Grade I race for 3-year-old horses and up. I’m participating in the Breeders’ Cup Million Dollar Finish, where you choose the order of finish in a series of eleven races (the first being the Belmont Stakes, and the last being the Breeders’ Cup Classic), and gain points for each correct pick. Each week, the winner receives a VIP trip to the Breeders’ Cup.

I’m excited to be part of the MDF Media Challenge amongst some awesome handicappers and media people, and even a few ABR ambassadors. We are all playing for charity, and after each week $1,000 is donated to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on the winner’s behalf. As a huge OTTB aftercare proponent, I’m proud to be involved for such a great cause! These are my picks for the order of the finish for the Stephen Foster Handicap. Tune in to the race to see who gets the most points!

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!