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Homeracing

10 interesting facts about American Pharoah, the legendary horse and Triple Crown winner

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

May 19th, 2022

American Pharoah was the 12th Triple Crown winner, having broken a 37-year drought to win the trio of races in 2015.

Below are 10 interesting facts about American Pharoah, the legendary horse whose name belongs alongside the all-time greats.

1. His breeder would only sell him for $1 million as a yearling: Ahmed Zayat, who bred American Pharoah, thought so much of the colt when he went to the Saratoga Select Yearling Sale in 2013 that he instructed his own buying agent, David Ingordo, to buy back the colt if he didn’t fetch a seven-figure sum. Bidding stopped at $300,000, so the colt raced in Zayat’s colors.

2. His name is misspelled: The Zayat family ran a contest on social media to name the horse and a name was chosen to reflect Zayat’s Egyptian heritage and the name of his sire, Pioneerof The Nile. However, the wrong spelling of the second word was submitted to the Jockey Club — the correct spelling should have been “Pharaoh.” Connections have admitted the misspelling was not intentional.

3. His first race gave no indication of his ability: American Pharoah began his career on the Del Mar All-Weather track August 9, 2014. There was clearly some word that he was a good horse in training as he started the 7-5 favorite, but after contesting the early lead three-wide, he faded in the stretch and finished fifth. Race winner Om proved to be good, winning four graded races, but not in the class of the horse he beat that day.

4. One of the Grade 1 juvenile races he won is now named after him: Bettors forgave American Pharoah his debut failure, making him second favorite at his second start, the Del Mar Futurity (G1) back on the Del Mar All-Weather. This time he was not headed, winning by nearly five lengths. Switching to the Santa Anita dirt for the FrontRunner S. (G1), he won easily from Calculator and Texas Red. Since 2018, the FrontRunner is run under a new name — the American Pharoah Stakes.

5. He was champion male two-year-old despite missing the biggest race: Since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile began in 1984, the victor has gone on to win the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Juvenile Male on all but eight occasions. The most recent of those eight was American Pharoah in 2014: he missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to injury but won the Eclipse Award after that race was won by Texas Red, a horse he beat by 4 3/4 lengths in the Frontrunner Stakes.

6. He proved himself on wet and dry ground in the Triple Crown: Favorite in the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah sat three wide on a dry track before outdueling Firing Line in the stretch. He then had sloppy ground to deal with in the Preakness but found it no problem, running away by seven lengths. Back on fast ground in the Belmont, he led all the way to win by 5 1/2 lengths to become the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown.

7. Most of the winning tickets on him in the Belmont Stakes were uncashed: There were more than 94,000 winning $2 bets placed on American Pharoah at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes day. Several days after the race, more than 90,000 of those had yet to be redeemed, kept either as souvenirs or by those hoping to sell them for more than the $3.50 they were worth.

8. The curse of the “Graveyard of Champions” struck him: After winning the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in August, American Pharoah contested the Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga, a track know as “the Graveyard of Champions” given that great horses such as Man o’ War, Secretariat, Gallant Fox, and Affirmed had been beaten there. A below-par American Pharoah joined them; after struggling to come out on top of a speed duel with Frosted, he couldn’t fend off the late-running Keen Ice.

9. He is the first horse to have won the “Grand Slam” of U.S. Thoroughbred Racing: The “Grand Slam” label was created by adding the Breeders’ Cup Classic to the Triple Crown. As the Breeders’ Cup didn’t begin until 1984, American Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner to get an opportunity to add that race to his résumé. He did it in style, leading all the way for a 6 1/2-length victory, tied with 2002 winner Volponi for the largest winning margin in the race. It would be American Pharoah’s last race.

10. He is making his mark as a sire: To date, American Pharoah’s been a good stallion for Ashford Stud. He was the leading first-crop sire in 2019, and was second-leading sire by Northern Hemisphere earnings in both his second-crop season (2020) and third-crop season (2021), both times behind Constitution. As of May 2022, he had sired four Group/Grade 1 winners, along with a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner. Much of his early success as a sire was with turf horses, but he’s had two progeny win Grade 1 events on dirt this year: Japan’s February Stakes winner Café Pharoah and Beholder Mile victor As Time Goes By.

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