American Pharoah erased 37 years of sports world frustration Saturday with a resounding victory in New York’s Belmont Stakes, defeating runner-up Frosted by 5 1/2 lengths to capture thoroughbred horse racing’s first Triple Crown since 1978.
The Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old ran the Belmont’s mile and a half in 2 minutes, 26.65 seconds, overcoming a hesitant start to take the lead out of the gate and remained in front every step of the way. The victory came in Baffert’s fourth try for the Triple Crown and the third for American Pharoah’s jockey Victor Espinoza.
Second-place finisher Frosted chased Pharoah from the outset, dropped back, then moved up and made a move toward the leader as the horses straightened into the home stretch but American Pharoah pulled away and cruised to the finish line as the capacity crowd of 90,000 at Belmont Park roared in appreciation.
Keen Ice finished third, followed by Mubtaahij, Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality.
American Pharoah, the 3-5 wagering favorite, paid $3.50 to win, $2.80 to place and $2.50 to show. He is the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.
Since Affirmed’s Triple Crown success in 1978, American Pharoah was the 13th horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but the first to prevail in the Belmont race known as the Test of Champions. Baffert had failed previously with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. Espinoza won the first two jewels of the crown with War Emblem and last year with California Chrome but was unable to win the Belmont Stakes with either horse.
Espinoza had said before Saturday’s race that he hoped “the third time will be the charm.” And it was.