American Pharoah accomplished one of the rare feats in sport Saturday, becoming the first horse in 37 years and just the 12th horse ever to win the Triple Crown.
The heavily favored colt completed the quest by running away from seven rivals in the Belmont Stakes, three weeks after a rain-soaked dash in the Preakness and five weeks after a gritty, stretch-duel victory in the Kentucky Derby.
American Pharoah's name now moves into the history books alongside equine immortals like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation and War Admiral. And horse racing finally has the superstar it has hungered for – a fluid athlete with a massive stride who seems to float over the ground.
The last horse to win all three of North America's biggest races was Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 13 horses have come to this historic track having won the first two legs of the Crown. All had failed, raising doubts whether the quest was still attainable for the modern thoroughbred.
In front of a roaring crowd, American Pharoah eradicated those doubts in stirring fashion, going wire-to-wire at the Belmont, beating second-place finisher Frosted by six lengths.
The result gave triumphant closure to trainer Bob Baffert's 18-year quest to win the Triple Crown. Three times previously, he had won the Derby and Preakness only to encounter Belmont heartbreak. In 1997, his Silver Charm was passed in deep stretch. In '98, Real Quiet was nipped at the wire. And in 2002, front-running War Emblem stumbled leaving the gate and was never a factor.
Now the 62-year-old Californian finally has his Triple.
It also marked a breakthrough for 43-year-old jockey Victor Espinoza in his third stab at winning the Triple Crown. Espinoza had been the rider on War Emblem, and on California Chrome last year. He is the first native of Mexico to win the Triple Crown.