American Pharoah's Snub Misunderstood

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

December 19th, 2015

Many believe that American Pharoah not winning the Sportsperson of the Year Award is wrong, a tragedy, how could the Triple Crown Winner not win Sportsperson of the Year? I mean, he won the Triple Crown, something that hadn't been done in 37 years? As a horse racing fan, a part of me wishes that American Pharoah did win the award, but then I start thinking about it logically.

Our sport, horse racing, whether thoroughbred or quarter is not a sport in the classic sense. Unlike other sports, where achievement is measurable by stats and trophies, horse racing really isn't. Some may say, like the gentleman I heard talking to some other gentlemen at a restaurant in La Canada early last week, "no horse was going to beat American Pharoah on Breeders' Cup Day", nobody is really sure if no horse would have. Beholder may have had the best day of her career on the day that American Pharoah won the Breeders Cup Classic. Lest we forget, Beholder's trainer, Richard Mandella, conditioned Dare And Go to an upset win over Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic.

The different speed ratings that exist in the world of horse racing, the different ways in which most tracks play, the amazing amount of things that can happen in a horse race, all of those crazy factors, makes horse racing the most unique sport in the world. Horse racing is like film making, it requires A-List actors, directors, screenwriters, editors and an ace crew in order to create something even serviceable and even then, that may not be enough. American Pharoah would not have won the Triple Crown if not for Bob Baffert. Just the same, Zenyatta would not have been Zenyatta without John Shirreffs and she didn't even win a race until she was four-years-old. Secretariat never won Sportsperson of the Year although some believe that he did. The 1973 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year was Jackie Stewart, a Formula 1 race driver. 

Was American Pharoah more deserving of winning the award than Zenyatta or Secretariat because he broke a 37 year old drought for an event with incredibly rigid rules that pigeonholes the best in horse racing and causes some trainers and owners to end horses' careers early? Materiality may have turned into one of the top handicap horses in the world as a four-year-old. If Tiznow hadn't started racing after the Triple Crown, would he have been Tiznow?

The industry created the mythology of the Triple Crown to sell the allusion of achievement, of greatness, of unbelievable ability to the masses. The reason that they did this is because when it comes down to it, our beloved sport is the only one whose engine is gambling. Without horseplayers, without us, there would be no horse racing. Las Vegas does not rule the NFL, or College Football, or the NBA. If it did, the New England Patriots wouldn't be 6-5-2 against the spread, or Clemson, the number one ranked team in the nation, wouldn't be 6 and 7 against the spread. Golden State is 26-1 straight up but only 17-9-1 ATS overall. The Warriors are only 7 and 5 ATS at home. Whereas Vegas created the money market for sports that already exists, our's started out as a money market from the very beginning.

Sports Illustrated made a huge mistake with their fan poll regarding the 2015 SI Sportsperson of the Year. The truth is that American Pharoah shouldn't have even been on the ballot. Howard the Duck, Marvel's awesome satirical alien fowl, received enough votes in the 1976 Presidential Election to show up on the national charts. My assumption is that many people voted for American Pharoah because they thought it might be funny, its hilarious, it was a ha ha moment to them. Shame on Sports Illustrated for allowing American Phaorah to become a joke to those people.

I'm not saying that it's okay to call those who believe that American Pharoah should have won, racists or sexists or any other derogatory words. Claims of beastiality towards individuals for giving their opinion is just stupid and childish. People should be allowed to have their opinion. Plain and simple. But, what I am saying is that we shouldn't lose sight of what our sport is. If Ahmed Zayat is so up in arms about American Pharoah not winning the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Award, he could have easily decided to race Pharoah in 2016. Beating California Chrome, Frosted and Beholder in multiple races in 2016 would have shown them. But, what did Zayat do?  He went for the money, just like any horseplayer who tried to beat American Pharoah in the Belmont. My brother is one of the biggest American Pharoah fans that I know. He loves the horse. It doesn't mean that he didn't put $20 bucks on Gleneagles to upset American Pharoah in the Classic.

Let the other sports have their awards. Our's is unique. That's why we love it. As horseplayers, success is counted in the monetary sizes of our bankrolls. Congratulations  to Serena for winning Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. Kudos to American Pharoah, Bob Baffert, Victor Espinoza and anybody else involved for winning the Triple Crown. As Stan Lee would say, "Nuff said."