TIME FOR SOME PHAROAH REFLECTIONS
The books are now closed on the racing career of American Pharoah. As this sports icon saunters off to the breeding shed, what are some of the lasting thoughts that will echo after his resounding win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?
The common sports fan probably will not truly understand the greatness of American Pharoah for some time. But a closer look at his accomplishments will tell all that this son of Pioneerof the Nile is at the top of the heap. And if there were any questions about his royalty, he answered them emphatically with his career closing 6 ½ length win in the Classic.
So let’s start with his latest triumph and work our way back. For those that had heard of his dynamics on dirt but never witnessed, the Pharoah put on a show at Keeneland. He turned the mile and a quarter into a flat 2 minute microcosm of his entire history-making year. Breaking alertly and rolling to the lead under the masterful riding of Jockey Victor Espinoza like he has most of the year, American Pharoah was in control from gate to wire. At the top of the stretch he found even more and displayed his dominance. If you had not seen him before…there you go. So in a nutshell, except for the Kentucky Derby (which he still won) and the Traver’s Stakes, he breaks, he runs, and nobody catches him.
A quick glance at American Pharoah’s race record has another amazing fact that defies normalcy in today’s Thoroughbred world. The triumphant trot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was his ninth win and those have come at eight different tracks. That means he has literally won races from sea to shining sea in his eleven-race career. Why is that such a big deal? Like any athlete or sports team, most horses like certain places. Dirt is not dirt and all tracks are a little different. Plus there is the shipping that is involved as well. Like people and sports teams, some travel well, some do not. Some perform well on the road, some do not. All horses seem to have a favorite race course, but like his hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert says, “he takes his track with him no matter where he goes”.
Another mark of greatness is the ability to overcome adversity. Pharoah overcame injury at the end of his two-year old season and displayed his dominance in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his first race as a three-year old back in March. The Kentucky Derby saw this great grandson of Unbridled become a little unnerved on the way to the paddock in front of 170,000 fans but rally himself when it was time to run. And the Preakness saw it raining side ways when the horses went to post, yet a composed Pharoah put forth one of the most dominating gate to wire wins Old Hilltop has ever seen.
As time rolls on, American Pharoah’s feats will probably grow bigger. He has made himself into a measuring stick for those Thoroughbred runners of the future. As the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and the 12th horse all time to pull off this trifecta, Pharoah has defied the logic of today’s racing world. I guess the Breeders’ Cup win actually makes it a superfecta. The term “grand slam” has been used to describe winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and Classic in the same year. I think “superfecta” is a bit more appropriate as it more accurately describes the Pharoah…Super!
His conditioner Bob Baffert humbly admits “God truly blessed me with this horse”. Well Bob, I think God has blessed us all.