Monday, June 8, 2015 at 6:48 AM

American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown in ‘Sport of Kings’

Posted by Anthony L. Hall



I feel obliged to begin with an excerpt from “National Mourning for a Horse? Puh-leeese,” January 31, 2007.


I don’t get the emotional attachment so many people have to this horse. Then again, it probably takes understanding the psychology at play in Peter Shaffer’s Equus to get it. But I think racing horses for sport has all of the redeeming social value of cockfighting (or, given the Michael Vick scandal, dogfighting)…

Barbaro, of course, was the latest winner of the Kentucky Derby — by one of the largest margins in history. His win had Equine mobs betting he would be the first horse to win the elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed did it almost 30 years ago (in 1978). Only eleven horses have achieved the dubious honor of galloping to victory in the three grueling Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – over a five-week period…

The sport of kings? Indeed! But so is fox hunting.


I share the above to disclose my abiding bias against horse racing. For this should explain why I was not among those waiting with bated breath to see if American Pharoah would win yesterday’s Belmont Stakes, and be crowned the first Triple Crown winner in thirty-seven years.

If anything, I was harboring a contrarian wish to see him become the fourteenth horse since Affirmed to win the first two races, only to come up lame in this ultimate race. Perhaps you recall that the aforementioned Barbaro not only came up lame, but soon died from the cruel and unnatural paces his trainer put him through for his owner’s sporting pleasure and financial gain.

[M]ultiple drugs are given daily to racehorses — whether they need them or not — by grooms and employees so they can pass veterinarians’ visual inspections, make it to the racetrack or perform at a higher level.

(“The Ugly Truth About Horse Racing,” The Atlantic, March 24, 2014)

And this is the least of the abuses involved….

article-3113901-296A4FD200000578-458_636x382But it would be bad form for me to rain any more on this long-awaited parade:

American Pharoah, the flashy colt with the smooth stride, won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in a generation and etching himself in the history books… Frosted was second, five and a half lengths back, and Keen Ice third…

The way he hit the ground, you couldn’t even feel how fast he was moving,’ jockey Victor Espinoza told NBC after the race.

(New York Times, June 6, 2015)

My philosophical aversion aside, I fully appreciate the tremendous sporting feat American Pharoah accomplished yesterday. Therefore, here’s to this remarkable horse. It deserves praise despite its celebrated trainer Bob Baffert and controversial owner Ahmed Zayat.

But I’m betting that, instead of making the horsey set wait another few decades, another horse or two will repeat this three-race feat within the next few years; you know, emulating Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).

Related commentaries:
National mourning
Triple crown

* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 8:18 a.m.

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