A Once-In-A-Lifetime Colt
There’s a new plateau for horse racing. It’s called the Grand Slam – the Triple Crown, plus the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Invented especially for American Pharoah, he completed the Grand Slam of horse racing with his six-length victory in the Classic on Saturday. And whether another horse will complete such a feat in the lifetime of even the youngest of us, is doubtful.
At the beginning of the 2015 season, many people thought that completing a sweep in the Triple Crown was impossible in itself. The three long races at different sites, and over just six weeks, seemed too arduous, the way horses are trained today. But trainer Bob Baffert and the Zayat family owners, somehow figured a way. The special runner they had, outran the crowded field of the Kentucky Derby, overcame the muddy Pimlico track to claim victory in the Preakness, and conquered the 1 ½-mile, sandy distance of the Belmont Stakes.
Any one of those feats would have been an accomplishment in itself, enough to retire a colt to stud, after a couple more Grade 1 wins. That’s what the Zayats considered after the Triple Crown. After all, Pharoah was still healthy, and his stud fee would have been enormous. But after Baffert closely examined the horse’s condition and training, the connections decided to answer the calls of an adoring public and see if their brilliant colt could become one of the true greats of all time.
Then it became plateau after plateau. They rested AP through much of the summer, trained him at just the right intervals, and went after the prestigious Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in early August. American Pharoah once again answered the call, putting the field in the dust down the stretch. Less than a month later, Frosted pressured American Pharoah through much of the distance of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. By the time AP put that one away, he wasn’t expecting a stealthy late run from Keen Ice, who snuck past Pharoah in the final strides. It was American Pharoah’s first loss in nine Grade 1 races, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic became a target for revenge.
On Saturday American Pharoah left us with little doubt. We got to witness one of the true greats. Now retired, AP will never race as a 4-year-old, and we’ll never see him in a race with the likes of Secretariat, Man ‘O War, Native Dancer or Citation. But when painting that portrait of the immortal greats of horse-racing history, the dashing form of the brilliant bay colt, American Pharoah, will surely be there.
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