American Pharaoh has won the Triple Crown at Belmont, and is the first horse to win the prized trophy with a sold-out crowd since 1978. Over 89,000 people came to Belmont Park on Long Island Saturday, June 6. There have been a total of 147 horse races for this event. The Belmont Stakes is the third and last of the Triple Crown; this includes the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, and the Kentucky Derby.
There were 13 horses in contention to win the first two races, and 12 came up short in the Belmont Stakes; American Pharaoh, however, won the Triple Crown by two lengths. It has been more than three decades since a horse has won the coveted prize. June 6’s race made four races in more than seven weeks, which is more than a horse runs normally in two months. The coordinators of the race said yesterday that the race was completely sold out, and no tickets were obtainable at the door.
When American Pharaoh came down the final stretch of the track, the crowd jumped to their feet, because the waiting was finally about to end. There was going to be a Triple Crown Winner. It had been so long, and not one person had any doubts that American Pharaoh could do it. Finally, a race horse worthy enough to win all three races.
Victor Espironza, from Mexico, was the jockey riding on American Pharaoh, however; as a boy, he was afraid of horses. The 43-year-old just wanted to enjoy the sound of the crowd celebrating his victory. He was bouncing down the track with such speed, and no one was able to catch him. As the horses strides became longer and longer he felt like he was floating across the sky. Espironza road on California Chrome a year ago, and in 2002 he rode War Emblem. It was such a horrible feeling hearing the disappointment in 100,000 people, and feeling the horses struggling down the track.
There has been five different presidents elected, and three wars have been fought in this country since the race horse Affirmed won all three races in 1978. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. Sir Barton was the first horse to win the Belmont Stakes in 1919. This was the longest span by far, and race fans are thrilled to finally see someone awarded. Since 1978, there have been 14 attempts at the Belmont Stakes. Until today, however, none have prospered, and a horse trained by Baffert made three of those attempts. On this attempt, he let go of the reins and let his horse take him bound for home. When the horse got off to a slow start out of the gate, Espironza was not concerned one bit. When there was a mile left, and American Pharaoh was pulling ahead he knew it was going to be a special ride.
Espironza had all the confidence in the world going into the Kentucky Derby, and two weeks ago at the Preakness when it started to down pour and the track thus became slick, a kind of track his horse ran best on. American Pharaoh ran like he had water skies on.
The Long Island Railroad had extra service for people attending the race at Belmont. For 37 years, there has been a long wait for another Triple Crown winner, and today the wait ended with American Pharaoh’s win. At Preakness, American Pharaoh was thought to be a horse that people see race once in a lifetime. Although it is the fourth horse race in two months, his trainer Bob Ballert says he is doing well and ready to go for another race.
By Katherine Miller-Chichester
News 12 Long Island: American Pharaoh wins Triple Crown on Long Island
The New York Times: American Pharaoh wins Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown
belmontstakes.com: Triple Crown winners
Photo courtesy of Diana Robinson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License