American Pharoah (KY)

Bob Baffert described American Pharoah’s career debut at Del Mar in August 2014 as “a complete disaster.”

“It was a total mess. Everything that could have gone wrong absolutely did,” said Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer and a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee. “He was acting up in the paddock and just never got comfortable in the environment around him. In the post parade, in the gate, same thing. He never relaxed and it all went sideways.”

Inducted

2021

Foaled

2012

Sire

Pioneerof the Nile

Dam

Littleprincessemma

Damsire

Yankee Gentleman

Breeder

Zayat Stables

Owner

Zayat Stables

Trainer

Bob Baffert

Career

2014-2015

Earnings

$8,650,300

Racing Record

11

Starts

Year Starts First Second Third Earnings
Year Sts 1 2 3 $
2014 3 2 0 0 $361500 $361,500
2015 8 7 1 0 $8288800 $8,288,800

Biography

Bob Baffert described American Pharoah’s career debut at Del Mar in August 2014 as “a complete disaster.”

“It was a total mess. Everything that could have gone wrong absolutely did,” said Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer and a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee. “He was acting up in the paddock and just never got comfortable in the environment around him. In the post parade, in the gate, same thing. He never relaxed and it all went sideways.”

American Pharoah finished fifth in his debut that day, well back of winner Om, who went on to become a multiple graded stakes winner. Baffert believed American Pharoah was unsettled by the crowd noise at Del Mar and quickly found a solution.

“We found out the issue was that he was sensitive to noise,” Baffert said, “so we took the blinkers off and put in earplugs and all the sudden we had a different horse. We’re talking about investing $6 for earplugs. It was like night and day the difference it made.”

The rest is racing history.

Less than a year later, American Pharoah became the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner, ending the 37-year wait that followed Affirmed’s sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in 1977.  

“Thirty-seven years is a long, long time and this horse deserved to be the one to end that streak,” said Baffert, who previously had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and War Emblem, only to be denied history in the Belmont each time. “Pharoah was truly special. I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd (at the Belmont), all the emotion, how he made so many people feel they were part of history. It really was great for the game. He made a lot of people into racing fans.”

Bred in Kentucky by owner Zayat Stables, American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile—Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman) broke his maiden in his second start, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, a little less than a month after his inauspicious debut. With Victor Espinoza taking over in the irons, American Pharoah drew off to win convincingly by 4¾ lengths.

“I knew right there he was a superior racehorse,” Baffert said of the Futurity. “We drew the one-hole and that concerned me, but the way he handled everything that day and the combination of power, speed, and effortlessness that he did it with really showed he was going to be elite.”

American Pharoah closed out his juvenile campaign with another impressive Grade 1 victory in the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita. The hype began to build as he took home the Eclipse Award for Champion 2-Year-Old Male.

“He was a little headstrong at first, but after a couple starts he really grew up,” Baffert said. “American Pharoah is one of the sweetest, kindest horses I’ve ever been around. His mind really relaxed and he became a pro. He loved to run and everything fell into place as he developed. His physical maturity and mental maturity came together and that put him in rare company.”

In the spring of 2015, American Pharoah took the Oaklawn Park route to the Kentucky Derby by winning the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in March and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in April. Following his devasting eight-length victory in the latter, American Pharoah went off as the Kentucky Derby favorite three weeks later — and he lived up to his advance billing.

Battling with Firing Line in the stretch, American Pharoah stuck his head in front and edged clear to win the 141st Run for the Roses by a length before a record crowd of 170,513 under the twin spires at Churchill Downs. Espinoza praised American Pharoah for his ability to dig deep and defeat the stubborn Firing Line.

“I feel like the luckiest Mexican on Earth,” Espinoza said after the Derby. “He has been a special horse since the first time I rode him. He has a lot of talent and is an unbelievable horse. Turning for home, I started riding a little harder. At the eighth pole, I just couldn’t put that other horse (Firing Line) away, but he got it done.”

Two weeks later, on a stormy afternoon at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, American Pharoah went to the lead from the rail to set the pace. He turned back all serious threats by the far turn and increased his advantage in the stretch to win the 131st Preakness with ease by seven lengths before a record attendance of 131,680. Espinoza wanted to get to the lead quickly because of the sloppy track.

“I was freezing. I was just so wet. I had to bounce out of the gate to take the lead with all the rain,” he said. “All (strategy) changed with the rain, but it worked out well. I took a chance and sent him as quick as I can. Sometimes you have to make decisions. That’s my job. Today, I made the right decision.”

Before a capped crowd of 90,000 at Belmont Park, American Pharoah completed the Triple Crown sweep in grand style in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes. He began to creep away from the field at the quarter pole and in the upper stretch drew away from Frosted for a 5½-length victory that. The final time for the 1½ miles was 2:26.65, sixth-fastest for the distance in the Belmont’s history. Espinoza, who previously won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with War Emblem and California Chrome, rode American Pharoah with a mindset the Belmont was a going to be a walk in the park, which it was.

“I came here with a lot of confidence, more confidence than the last two (Triple Crown attempts),” Espinoza said after the Belmont. “That trophy it caused me a lot of stress … but the third time was the charm.”

American racing had its 12th Triple Crown winner.

Following the Belmont, American Pharoah easily won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational (G1) before a record crowd of 60,983 at Monmouth Park to extend his win streak to eight before being upset by Keen Ice in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Two months later, on Halloween at Keeneland Race Course, American Pharoah closed out his career with a tour de force performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Leading at every pole, he drew off from the overmatched field in the stretch to win by 6½ lengths and set a track record of 2:00.07 for 1¼ miles.

Retired following the Classic with a career record of 9-1-0 from 11 starts and earnings of $8,650,300, American Pharoah was an easy choice for Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Male at the Eclipse Awards. Now residing at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky, American Pharoah is off to a promising start to his stallion career. Now a 9-year-old, he is already a sire of Grade 1-winning offspring.

“He’s certainly among the all-time greats. I don’t think there is any question about that," Baffert said. “He did everything so effortlessly and with such class. The way he moved, his mechanics were absolutely flawless. I went and saw him (prior to the 2021 Kentucky Derby) and he looks as good as he’s ever looked, if not better. Winning the Triple Crown with American Pharoah was the greatest sports moment of my life. It was so emotional and such a terrific thing for racing. He deserves all the accolades he gets.”

Achievements

Eclipse Award Horse of the Year — 2015
Eclipse Award Champion 3-Year-Old Male — 2015
Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Male — 2014

Triple Crown Highlights

Won the Kentucky Derby — 2015
Won the Preakness Stakes — 2015
Won the Belmont Stakes — 2015

Breeders' Cup Highlights

Won the Classic — 2015

Media

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