In the world of horse racing, there is one specific achievement that is remarkably elusive—the Triple Crown. Over the course of two centuries, only thirteen horses have captured this historic feat. The title of Triple Crown is earned by winning three races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. In 2015, the thoroughbred racehorse American Pharoah took home the first Triple Crown victory since the year 1978. After 37 years of silence, the well-known award had a new member.
Unlike previous winners, American Pharoah endured a long history of struggle before finally rising to the top. As a bay colt, the stallion possessed a remarkably good temperament from a young age. This spirit soon became unmatched among his racing counterparts, as his level-headedness would contribute greatly to his upcoming success.
American Pharoah was born in 2012 and bred by Ahmed Zayat—his owner—in Lexington, Kentucky. After being weaned just five months after birth, the foal became increasingly noticeable due to his raw racing ability and rational nature. After developing a lump on his leg, Pharoah’s market value decreased greatly. This caused Zayat to buy him back in an attempt to prove to the world that his horse was capable of achieving greatness.
Following eight months of training, American Pharoah began his racing career in 2014 at a maiden race. Finishing at a measly average of eighth place in his first five races, it was clear that more work was needed in order to perfect the colt’s skillset. As his trainers had hoped, Pharoah began to fall in the category of elite horses among the country. Picking up first-place wins at Santa Anita Park and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the narrative surrounding the up-and-coming horse began to shift in a positive way. Following the Breeders’ Cup triumph, trainer Bob Baffert had multitudes of praise for his companion.
“I can’t believe his demeanor, how he has changed since his first out. He’s so professional. He’s really mentally there,” Baffert explicated when asked about American Pharoah’s progression. This quantity of improvement became the key to the colt’s major breakthrough the following year.
After ending 2014 on a high note, the stallion had sky-high expectations for his three-year-old season in 2015. Even though American Pharoah finished in second place during the Arkansas Derby, the massive growth in his racing times was very much noticeable. It was apparent that this horse had unlimited potential.
Heading into the Kentucky Derby, the stage was extremely large for the young horse. This would be the first time that Pharoah would face such aggressive competition; however, these bright lights did not waver the colt one bit. He stood tall and ran with pride, finishing in first place by a factor of nearly six whole seconds. This victory proved that American Pharoah was fit for achieving legendary accomplishments.
Just two weeks after the Derby, the Preakness Stakes dawned upon the young star. This was the second leg of the Triple Crown, and it would take place in the pouring rain. Not phased by the conditions, American Pharoah posted yet another jaw-dropping performance, breaking free in the homestretch and winning by seven lengths. The victory at Preakness put Pharoah just one win away from winning the Triple Crown.
At the Belmont Stake—the third and final race—Pharoah needed to step up to the challenge in order to claim his crown. Although he got a late start, the stallion exploded out of the gates and pulled ahead of every horse with time to spare. In the final seconds of his race, the crowd went wild as American Pharoah crossed the finish line in first place, effectively winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown award. Doing something that hadn’t been done since 1978, this extraordinary action forcer etched the colt’s name in record books as the 12th horse to ever win the Triple Crown.
The story of American Pharoah resembles that of a true underdog. After being doubted by countless owners and trainers, the stallion rose above all challenges and completed the nearly impossible task of winning the Triple Crown in just his second year of racing. The story of American Pharoah and his accomplishments is a tale of adversity and success; it is a story that has become well-known by all horse-lovers around the world.