American Pharoah

Raised in the US South, my childhood was immersed in sports. Over time, my passion evolved into a mission to share overlooked tales from the sports world. I created Daily Dose of Sports to highlight stories of perseverance, legends, and unsung heroes. Today, I'm not just a sports enthusiast - I'm a storyteller. Read more about me here.

American Pharoah is the only horse in the history of American thoroughbred racing to win the Grand Slam.

Foaled at Tom VanMeter’s Stockplace Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, on Ground Hog Day 2012, the bay colt was sired by Pioneerof the Nile, who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.  American Pharoah’s grandfather won the 2003 Belmont and his great-grandfather, Unbridled, won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup Classic in 1990.  After being weaned at five months, he was purchased at auction as a yearling for $ 300,000 by Ahmed Zayat, owner of Zayat Stables.  “We felt he had a brilliance in him.  His demeanor, his aura, his conformation, the way he moved.”  Following auction, Pharoah was shipped to McKathan Brothers Training Center in Florida, where he excelled before going into training with Bob Baffert in the spring of 2014.   Baffert has trained four Kentucky Derby winners, six Preakness champions and two winners of the Belmont in his Hall of Fame career.  “I’ve never had a horse that moves or travels over the ground like he does.”  American Pharoah had a smooth, distinctively long stride, with a feint star on his forehead and surprisingly gentle demeanor.  In his maiden race at Del Mar in August 2014, Pharoah, who Baffert called “a bit of a head case,” finished fifth while wearing blinders.  After Baffert removed the blinders, American Pharoah won his next two starts and earned the Eclipse Award as Two-Year-Old Male Horse of the Year.

After winning the first two races of his three-year-old season in 2015, American Pharoah was installed as the favorite amongst the 18 horses in the Kentucky Derby field.  He took the lead coming out of the final turn to win the race by a length with what Baffert described as “not his super-A game.”  Two weeks later, the muscled colt drew the inside post position—a slot no horse had won from since 1994—at the Preakness.  In heavy thunderstorms on a sloppy track, Pharoah won by seven lengths, the sixth-largest margin of victory in race history, to capture the second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.  The Belmont Stakes is, at one-and-a-half miles in length, the most demanding event of the Triple Crown races.  The 2015 Belmont was the 147th running of the “Test of Champions” and the 16th time that a horse came into the race having won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, including the previous year, when California Chrome was in that position.  In the seven years from 1973 to 1978, three horses won the Triple Crown.  In the 37 years since, no thoroughbred had accomplished that feat.  On June 3, 90,000 fans roared as American Pharoah ended the drought by winning the Belmont by more than five lengths to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in the history of the Sport of Kings.  It was the sixth-fastest time in Belmont history.  On a sunny Halloween afternoon four months later, he shattered the track record at Keeneland by more than five seconds to win the Breeder’s Cup Classic, leading from gate-to-wire against older horses to earn the $ 2.75 million prize for first place.  No horse in history had ever won the Triple Crown and Breeder’s Cup in the same year.  Following his win at Keeneland, American Pharoah retired to stand stud at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

American Pharoah won nine of eleven races in his two year career, earning $ 8,650,000 while accomplishing a feat that may never be equaled.  His legendary run through the Triple Crown culminated with a record-setting performance in the Breeder’s Cup Classic, ending 37 years of frustration and becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed [Daily Dose, March 23] in 1978.  Pharoah’s 2015 performance was a seminal moment that will live on not just in horse racing, but in sports history as well.  The majestic animal with a short tail—it was chewed off by another horse while Pharoah was just a yearling—claimed the Crown in three different ways; amongst a packed field at the Derby, in the slop and rain at the Preakness and by sheer power at the Belmont.  American Pharoah was fond of people and surprisingly calm around them, rare for a thoroughbred racehorse.  Following his poor maiden performance as a two-year-old at Del Mar, his handlers worked with him and, “All the sudden he got really sweet and really mellow.”  Baffert explained, “Horses of this caliber are not that nice and sweet.  They’re just sort of tough.  Usually, you can’t get near them.”  Pharoah was bred from a deep lineage that includes three horses ranked on the AP’s list of top thoroughbreds of the 20th Century, including Man O’ War [1], Native Dancer [3] and War Admiral [13].  In 2015, American Pharoah received the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year as well as Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse.  His accomplishments were named top sports story of the year by the Associated Press, his Belmont win was declared Moment of the Year, and he finished second to Serena Williams as Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.