American Dream

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Plain and simple, cut to the chase, get to the point. Whatever you want to say, the wait is over.

The words from nearly everyone’s mouths the same. It happened.

American Pharoah ended nearly four decades of futility Saturday at Belmont Park, winning the Belmont Stakes in front of a raucous and celebratory crowd to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.

American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza led from the start and ran the sixth fastest winning Belmont in the 147-year history of the historic race, completing the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.65.

The 3/5 favorite in the field of eight, American Pharoah won by 5 1/2 lengths over second choice Frosted with Keen Ice third and Mubtaahij fourth.

American Pharoah not only ended a 36-year drought of no Triple Crown winners, he also gave his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert an elusive sweep of the American classics. Baffert came to the doorstep of history three times prior to American Pharoah – in 1997, 1998 and 2002 – but had it slammed in his face in the Belmont.

The 2015 Belmont was a different story, with a different horse and a much more welcome outcome.

“I was hoping it would happen,” Baffert said immediately afterwards. “I didn’t know how good it was going to feel. Now I know. They (his late parents) were with me today. I was talking to them the whole race.”

The packed house was talking to American Pharoah, Espinoza and Baffert when the race was run and when it was complete.

A hearty round of boos went up around the walking ring when the field went to the track without taking a proper full turn of the paddock.

The jeers turned to cheers in the post parade, when the field reached the gate, when the starter sent them on their way and as American Pharoah stormed off the far turn in front by daylight. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was 2 lengths clear at the top of the lane after 10 furlongs in 2:02.33 and he widened the margin in the lane.

Just as the opposition sputtered, American Pharoah flourished. He left Frosted and the rest reeling in his wake, running his final quarter-mile in :24.32, unofficially the second fastest ever and faster than Triple Crown winner Secretariat negotiated his final quarter during his epic 1973 domination of the Belmont. The fastest final quarter was believed to be turned in by the filly Rags to Riches, who ran it in :23.83 in 2007 when she defeated Curlin by a head.

Espinoza said he knew they’d win as they ran around the first turn.

“He broke a little step slowly, but in two jumps I was just right on the lead,” said Espinoza, who was thwarted in two prior Triple Crown attempts on War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome last year. “That’s right where I want to be, a length in front of everybody and just steady, steady all the way around. I tell you, I had the best feeling ever when he (ran around) the first turn.”