American Pharoah becomes 1st Triple Crown winner in 37 years |

American Pharoah becomes 1st Triple Crown winner in 37 years

Victor Espinoza reacts after crossing the finish line with American Pharoah (5) to win the 147th Belmont Stakes on Saturday in New York.
Bill Kostroun / AP | FR51951 AP

Triple Crown Successes

NEW YORK — Twelve 3-year-olds have won the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes).

2015 — American Pharoah ends a record 37-year drought leading all the way to finish 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Frosted.

1978 — Affirmed duels with archrival Alydar for about the final five-eighths of a mile and beats him by a head. The other three starters finish far back.

1977 — Seattle Slew has no problems disposing of seven rivals, leading all the way and winning by 4 lengths.

1973 — In probably the greatest performance ever by a racehorse, Secretariat wins by from 31 to 45 1/4 lengths over four rivals in 2:24, which still stands as a world record for 1 1-2 miles on dirt.

1948 — Citation leads seven rivals every step of the way and wins by 8 lengths.

1946 — Third with about an eighth-mile remaining, Assault charges to victory by 3 lengths in a seven-horse field.

1943 — Count Fleet gets no competition from two rivals and wins by 25 lengths.

1941 — Whirlaway opens a 7-length lead at midpoint, then finishes in hand for a 2 1/2 length win in a four-horse field.

1937 — War Admiral takes lead shortly after start and holds it for a 3-length win in seven-horse field.

1935 — Shuffled back at the start, Omaha overtakes Firethorn in the stretch and wins by 1 1/2 lengths in a field of four.

1930 — Gallant Fox leads almost all the way and wins by 3 lengths in a four-horse field.

1919 — Sir Barton has no trouble beating only two rivals, winning by 5 lengths over 1 3-8 miles. Distance becomes 1 1-2 miles in 1926.

NEW YORK — At long last, the Triple Crown drought is over.

American Pharoah led all the way to win the Belmont Stakes by 5 ½ lengths on Saturday, becoming the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — one of the sporting world’s rarest feats.

The bay colt with the unusually short tail defeated seven rivals in the grueling 1 1/2-mile race, covering the distance in 2:26.65 to end the longest stretch without a Triple Crown champion in history.

American Pharoah is the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win three races on different tracks at varying distances over a five-week span. He won the Derby by one length on May 2 and then romped to a seven-length victory in the rainy Preakness two weeks later.

Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza ended their own frustrating histories in the Triple Crown. Baffert finally won on his record fourth Triple try, having lost in 1997, 1998 (by a nose) and in 2002. Espinoza got it done with his record third shot after failing to win in 2002 and last year on California Chrome.

Frosted finished second and Keen Ice was third.

American Pharoah delivered a victory for Egyptian-born owner Ahmed Zayat, who bred the colt and put him up for sale before buying him back for $300,000. His name came courtesy of the family’s online contest, in which a woman from Missouri submitted the winning moniker, but the misspelling wasn’t noticed until the name was already official

American Pharoah joined the ranks of Triple Crown winners Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed.

The crowd of 90,000 — capped to avoid overcrowding and long lines from last year’s total of 102,199 — roared as American Pharoah turned for home in front.

As he neared the finish line, drinks were tossed in the air and fans jumped up and down in celebration, many holding their camera phones aloft to capture history on a sunny, 75-degree day at Belmont Park. It’s unlikely the champion heard them since American Pharoah wears ear plugs to block noise that might get him worked up.

American Pharoah extended his winning streak to seven races. He matched the accomplishment of his grand-sire, Empire Maker, who won the 2003 Belmont, spoiling Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid.

Since 1978, the rigors of the Triple Crown had done in 13 other horses who won the Derby and the Preakness — with 12 losing the third leg and I’ll Have Another scratched with a leg injury in 2012. Their failures left the sport and its fans craving a worthy successor to the 11 previous champions.

American Pharoah — his tail shortened after being bitten off on the farm as a youngster — turned out to be that horse. He awed observers with his speed and a fluid, springloaded stride in which he appeared to float over the ground.

He was 2-year-old champion last year, and virtually cinched similiar honors for his achievements as a 3-year-old this year.

Unlike Affirmed, who dueled Alydar in all three races, American Pharoah didn’t have a specific rival since he was only horse to run in all three Triple Crown races. Going into the Belmont, American Pharoah had beaten all of his seven challengers before.

Five of his rivals lost to him in the Derby, then skipped the Preakness to await the Belmont, a competitive advantage to horses that didn’t endure the three-race grind. Tale of Verve finished second in the Preakness to American Pharoah, who had beaten Madefromlucky in the Rebel Stakes in March.

American Pharoah became the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to run in all three races and win the Belmont, known as “The Test of the Champion.”

He passed, with flying colors.

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