American Pharoah takes Belmont Stakes to claim first Triple Crown since 1978

Bob Baffert’s three-year-old follows up successes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes

 American Pharoah and  Victor Espinoza  cross the  line to win the 147th  of  Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York and secure the first  Triple Crown in 37 years. Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA

American Pharoah and Victor Espinoza cross the line to win the 147th of Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York and secure the first Triple Crown in 37 years. Photo: Jason Szenes/EPA

 

American Pharoah made history in New York with a brilliant victory in the Belmont Stakes seeing him become the first horse since Affirmed and Steve Cauthen in 1978 to lift the American Triple Crown.

Hot on the heels of his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old passed the so-called ‘Test of the Champion’ in the mile-and-a-half Belmont with flying colours.

In front of a huge crowd, and again partnered by Victor Espinoza, 43, who was denied Triple Crown glory when California Chrome was fourth 12 months ago and War Emblem eighth in 2002, the Pioneerof The Nile colt made all to beat Frosted and enter racing folklore.

Espinoza was always controlling the race at his pace, and while Frosted briefly looked a threat turning in, American Pharoah had plenty left at the business end and forged clear, on just the eighth run of his career.

Baffert said: “He’s just a great horse, it takes a great horse to do it.

“I knew he was training well, but you have to have the horse.

“I feel like I have a very special horse, it’s not down to me, it’s the horse.”

In an industry where speed is increasingly of the essence, the mile and a half around Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, really takes some getting and ‘Big Sandy’ had become a graveyard for Classic stars.

California Chrome’s eclipse last year meant 12 horses had attempted to complete the famous treble since Affirmed, including such luminaries as Spectacular Bid (1979), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989) and Silver Charm (1997).

In 1998, Real Quiet failed by just a nose, while the last to bid for glory had been Big Brown, who was injured in the 2008 Belmont. I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness in 2012 but suffered a career-ending tendon injury on the eve of the Belmont and did not run.

American Pharoah becomes the 12th horse to win the three races, the first having been Sir Barton in 1919. The incomparable Secretariat did it in 1973, with Seattle Slew successful in 1977.

The Belmont is the oldest of the American jewels, pre-dating the Preakness by six years and the Kentucky Derby by eight, having been established at Jerome Park in 1866.

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