Racing for the Triple Crown: American Pharoah’s pursuit of one of sport’s rarest feats

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American Pharoah beats out Dortmund and Firing Line to win the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Devin Daley, Asst. Sports Editor

The Triple Crown of horse racing is one of the rarest and most sought after prizes in the sporting world. Only 11 horses have ever completed the task of winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes all in just over a month. This year, American Pharoah is the one who is eligible to try for the crown.

American Pharoah won the 141st Kentucky Derby on March 2, beginning his quest for the coveted crown. Despite a torrential downpour before and during the race, which resulted in a muddy track, he went on to win the 140th Preakness Stakes on May 16 by an impressive seven lengths. Pharaoh did well to not let the weather bother him as he dominated the Preakness.

He faced 20 other horses in order to win the derby, which is far more than the seven he faced in the Preakness Stakes.

American Pharoah is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who has owned many horses that has run in the Triple Crown races. However, American Pharoah is his first horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Zayat has had horses finish second three times in the past decade, but Pharaoh changed that trend by winning not only the the Kentucky Derby, but, now, the second leg of the triple crown: the Preakness Stakes.
American Pharoah’s jockey for the two races, as well as the upcoming Belmont Stakes on June 6, is Victor Espinoza, who is riding for his third shot at the Triple Crown. Espinoza has had two previous Triple Crown bids come short at Belmont. Both War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014 had won the first two legs with Espinoza at the reigns, both of which ended up failing to complete the feat of winning all three races.
Espinoza’s failure to win at Belmont is not unique, as 23 horses in the past have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to lose the final race. The Belmont Stakes is unique as it’s the longest of the three and usually features many horses that didn’t run either of the previous two or the Preakness, making them much fresher for the Belmont. American Pharoah will face these exact challenges as it looks forward to its chance to engrave its name into the history books on June 6.

American Pharaoh will surely be the favorite going into Belmont, as his dominance has earned him this right. However, whether or not American Pharoah is capable of winning the Belmont Stakes can be brought into question.This is because the Belmont has a much longer length than the first two legs of the Crown and its one-and-a-half-mile track is something that is rarely seen in the United States these days. Due to the lack of longer tracks in the U.S., it will be hard to judge Pharaoh because he will not have had much experience in longer distance races. What can be judged is how well Pharoah ran the first two legs and, if his dominance continues, there is a legitimate Triple Crown candidate this year.