AMERICAN PHAROAH CAN TEACH US ALL
Sometimes lessons and learning experiences can come from different places. Folks looking for something these days need to glance no farther than a four-legged phenomenon that has raced into the history books.
In capturing Thoroughbred racing’s coveted Triple Crown, American Pharoah has opened up the classroom and laid out many lessons. The sweeping of three different races at three different distances on three different tracks was thought to be impossible these days. But along came this super son of Pioneerof The Nile and away flew that myth. Using the strengths of greatness, this Bob Baffert trained colt ran into the hearts of the entire world with a gutsy win in the Kentucky Derby, a powerful score in the Preakness and a behemoth-like run in the Belmont.
Now that the Triple Crown chase is over, his hall of fame trainer will be the first to admit he is a student in Pharoah’s classroom. Despite having nine previous wins in Triple Crown races, Bob Baffert learned a lot during this run with the Pharoah. Answering questions along the way, the California-based conditioner came up with all the right answers in the end.
“I definitely learned to stay out of the way of greatness,” says the Arizona native. “I could have never trained an average horse this way and won those races. I have had a lot of good horses over the years but none of them have been like him. He just handled everything so well. I will admit after the Kentucky Derby we had questions about him. Yes, he gutted out the win there, but we thought maybe he is not as good as we think. Then in the Preakness he showed us all our initial thoughts were right and he had won the Derby simply because he was that much better, even on a bad day”
The first two legs of the Triple Crown had told Bob Baffert about the will and courage of his horse. The Belmont Stakes told the entire world about greatness as an athlete was Crowned for the first time in 37 years (1978 Affirmed) after a gate to wire romp.
“We knew going into the Belmont there were no excuses,” says Baffert. “We had been very aggressive in his training because of the injury he suffered at the end of his two-year old season,. He had handled it all so well we knew he was ready. He just has a great mind and is so easy to train. What a gift he has given us all.”
One of the many things to come out of this titanic triumph is the teamwork of the entire Pharoah group. Of course Bob was integral, but Ahmed Zayat and son Justin Zayat, assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, wife Jill Baffert, and many others have all played pivotal roles in providing an opportunity for all to enjoy.
“I wish I had words profound enough to describe this whole thing,” says Jill. “It has just been the craziest, most blessed, happiest time you could ever imagine. Our feet have not touched the ground yet. But you know the great thing is it has been more than just about racing. This thing has been far reaching and given people hope and something to believe in. “
Humble pie has also been served up along the way in this run to immortality. Because even though the entire team was immensely important, they are the first to bow at the feet of the Pharoah.
“In the end it is really all about the horse,” says Jill. “Bob and (jockey) Victor (Espinoza) along with the rest of the people did a fantastic job of giving him the opportunity to shine, but in the end he was the one that had to do it and he did.”
As we all search for the things that help us play in the game of life, this fleet-footed athlete has allowed many to grab a hold of something real in their lives. Whether it be those closely connected or the everyday person on the street, all can consider American Pharoah one of the great teachers of all-time.