The Triple Crown is supposed to call for an all-around great racing horse, both a sprinter and a stayer. For the last sixty years or so, the thoroughbred racing world has focused on breeding a fast two-year-old or three-year-old sprinter, and then collecting stud fees from him. That’s why we haven’t been seeing any Triple Crown winners until this year.
But the genes are still there, for those who care to try for them, and American Pharoah has proven himself one of the great ones. He’s well-trained. He’s even a mudder as well as being happy with a fast track, and his temperament is unusually friendly and good-natured for a stallion so determined to win. The only thing that’s wrong with him is an aversion to noise. By now, it seems he is over that and the earplugs are just a precaution. (Because if noise really upset him, I guarantee he could hear the crowd roar even with the earplugs in.)
But he truly is one of the great ones, not just an all-rounder. There’s a touch of magic about him.
One of the scenes which appeared in a Walter Farley book, long ago, was a scene where a horse was clocked at an amazing time. But his pace was so smooth that it looked slow, so all the railbirds checked their stopwatches in puzzlement.
I always thought that was a nifty literary embellishment. But we saw it happen in real life at the Belmont. American Pharoah ran the fastest Belmont I’ve ever seen, the sixth-fastest ever. But Secretariat looked fast, because he was a big horse and you could see those legs move. American Pharoah is medium-sized, and he runs so efficiently that he truly didn’t seem to be moving fast at all. The other horses were working so hard that you were sure they’d catch up soon… but they couldn’t keep up with that smooth, ground-eating, floating stride. It looked like a magical rocking horse beating a pack of Ferraris.
My hope is that American Pharoah is the leader of a bunch of great ones coming up. If breeders and trainers have started to try for horses that can run anything, instead of a one-trick pony, it will be good for the whole breed.
Here’s a guy pointing out that American Pharoah isn’t as good as Secretariat. Well, duh. The greatest racehorses of all modern times were Man o’ War, Secretariat, and probably Eclipse (but he’s been dead since 1789).
But you don’t have to be as good as Secretariat to be as good as Seattle Slew or Affirmed or War Admiral or Seabiscuit, and those were great horses.
I also think that Victor Espinoza is pure class for tithing to an orphan charity, and giving the Belmont third of his Triple Crown jockey money to cancer research. He is a true Christian gentleman, and a model to the sport. The owner, Mr. Zayat, also seems like a decent guy.
Horse racing is a beautiful sport, as Mr. Zayat said. Sometimes ugly things happen to contaminate it. But the sport itself is all about horses that love to run, and humans that love to watch them go. I don’t think there was a dry eye anywhere on Belmont racetrack, if you don’t count the horses.