TRIPLE Crown Champion American Pharoah went out in great style by winning Saturday’s$5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, Kentucky by 6,50-lengths.
He took charge out of the gate in his final race before retirement.
American Pharoah completed the 2000m in a track-record 2:00.07 (smashing the old record by more than 5s) as the sentimental 3-5 favourite among the crowd of 50,150. Fans stood 20-deep all along the rail, cheering and snapping cellphone photos of the superstar and his jockey, Victor Espinoza.
American Pharoah took 5s off the Breeders’Cup track record.
“This was for Pharoah,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “We wanted him to go out the champion he is.”
“The winner is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen,” said Irishman Aidan O’Brien, who trained last-place Gleneagles.
It was a feel-good moment for a sport that has been battered and bruised — all the troubles of declining attendance and drug controversies were wiped away in two magical minutes.
“It’s a horse racing fairy tale and I just happen to be in it,” Baffert said.
After easing across the finish line, Espinoza took the colt far up the first turn before slowly walking past the grandstand to the winner’s circle, accompanied by raucous cheers all the way. The champion even had his own military escort walk him back to his barn.
The fans knew they had just witnessed history, the final chapter in a story that may never be repeated.
“It’s a lot of pressure to train a horse like this because I didn’t want to let the horse down and I didn’t want to let the fans down,” Baffert said. “I’m just so proud of him; it’s like watching my child out there.”
American Pharoah won nine of his 11 career starts, including the first sweep of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and Belmont in 37 years earlier this term. He earned a total of $8,650,300 for Ahmed Zayat, the Egyptian-born owner who chose to keep his popular horse in training so fans could see him run.
He was a remarkable blend of exceptional talent and a winning personality. Unlike most high-strung, unpredictable thoroughbreds, he was friendly and patient with fans who wanted to pet and pose with him.
“The kindest, friendliest, happiest, easiest, most brilliant horse I’ve ever seen in my life,” Zayat said. “He connected with people. He loves people. I knew he got it.”
Next up for American Pharoah is a new career as a breeding stallion at a farm in Kentucky bluegrass country near Keeneland.
“It’s going to be sad to see him go,” Baffert said. “But I think he’s done enough. He’s proved enough.”
Turning to his 10-year-old son Bode, the trainer said: “We’re going to miss him, aren’t we, buddy?”
-extracts from abcnews.