7 Jun 2015

American Pharoah takes Triple Crown

1:12 pm on 7 June 2015

American Pharoah has become the first horse to capture the coveted Triple Crown in nearly four decades.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

His victory on Sunday at the Belmont Stakes, his seventh win in a row, made him the 12th horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in a calendar year.

As he crossed the finish line, jockey Victor Espinoza pumped his fist and the sold-out crowd of 90,000 at Belmont Park cheered wildly.

Espinoza, who failed twice before to win the Triple Crown by losing the Belmont Stakes, did not have to wait long before knowing it was going to be his day.

"I had the best feeling ever when he crossed the first turn," Espinoza said. "The way he runs and stretches legs, and the way he hits the ground, it doesn't feel like you're going that fast. It feels like he's in slow motion."

The victory secured American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert's first Triple Crown after the Hall of Famer was denied three previous times at the Belmont Stakes, with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002.

"Down the backside he was in a groove," said Baffert. "He's a great horse, I knew he was going to do it. I just feel like I have a very special horse, he's the one that won. It wasn't me."

American Pharoah, the son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, now has seven victories in eight career starts.

Prior to American Pharoah's victory on Sunday, 13 horses since Affirmed's Triple Crown had triumphed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to win the Belmont.

American Pharoah won the May 2nd Derby by a length and two weeks later claimed the Preakness Stakes by a jaw-dropping seven lengths in a driving rainstorm.