updated 5:16 PM UTC, Oct 24, 2016

American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown


American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown

American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown


( 4UMF NEWS ) American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown:

At the top of the stretch, this is what you heard at Belmont Park, and this is what you saw: 90,000 people taking a half-second to catch their breath, to recalibrate their eyes. To learn all over again how to believe.

This is what it’s like to watch history as it happens.

And the people, all 90,000 of them, wanted to be sure they were seeing what they were seeing, wanted to make sure their eyes weren’t tangling with the emotions, playing dirty tricks on them.

American Pharoah was in the lead, and it sure seemed like he was pulling away.

“Let him be happy,” said Victor Espinoza, the man riding him.

“That little horse deserves it,” said Bob Baffert, the man who trained him.

He deserved it, sure. But so did the people, all 90,000 of them, so often felled by false hope these past 37 years. Now, officially, this is what they said: to hell with our voices; they’ll be back by Monday.

To hell with our cynicism, and to the myth we’d started to believe in, that no horse would ever again be good enough to add a Belmont Stakes crown to the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness.

And to hell with being ­cautious. And careful.

Down the stretch they came. The field — the world — trailing American Pharoah, losing ground by the step, losing lengths by the second. This is what it’s like to watch royalty in real time.

“The crowd,” Baffert said, “was thundering.”

Thirty-seven years had flown by, 37 years since Affirmed had beaten Alydar here by the length of a nose.

Thirteen times since, a horse arrived here carrying the burden of two-thirds of a Triple Crown, the names blending and blurring — Smarty Jones and Funny Cide, War Emblem and Charismatic, Spectacular Bid’s spectacular miss in 1979, California Chrome’s last year — only to succumb to any of the potholes this race ­offers:

The distance: A killing mile and a half.

The pressure: Only 11 horses had ever turned the triple trick.

And the venue itself: The cusp of 100,000 New Yorkers, all of them inclined to root — and bet, despite the odds — on history. All of them cheering — and demanding, and expecting.

All of them roaring like thunder.

And here came American Pharoah, pulling away, the noise building, growing, spilling over the grandstands, flooding the nearby Cross Island Parkway and Hempstead Turnpike.

Here came Espinoza, enjoying the ride of his lifetime, coaxing him home.

There, in the crowd, was Baffert and his family, Baffert recognizable from a mile and a half away thanks to his shock of snow white hair, about to climax a brilliant career the best way possible, joining an elite roster of men like Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Ben Jones and Lucien Laurin.

“We knew we had the horse,” Baffert said, “once Victor got him in the clear.”

He dashed for the lead, got it after a few strides, kept it for ­every split of the race, right to the last pole when Baffert ­finally allowed himself to think: “This is going to happen.”

Here they all were, and here was New York City, 90,000 strong, and the instant American Pharoah crossed the finish line — did you channel Gary Cohen — “It. Has. HAPPENED!” — the scene everywhere at Belmont Park was one you’ll remember for a lifetime:

Strangers slapping hands. Strangers exchanging hugs. Fans on every level of the grandstand exiting their seats, taking to the corridors, running wildly, as if ­inspired by what they’d seen, emptying their lungs with glee, with joy, with bliss. Some of them weeping, too.

If somehow the Yankees could win the World Series, the Giants the Super Bowl and the Knicks the NBA championship at the same exact time, in the same exact place — well, that’s what it sounded like. If you were there, you’ll remember that sound forever. You’ll remember what you saw. Forever. History as it happened.

The drought is over. That little horse deserved it. And so did you.


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