Hardware keeps rolling in for American Pharoah

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Three days removed from being honored as Horse of the Year in North America at the Eclipse Awards, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah took home one of the globe’s most prestigious honors when honored as the Longines World’s Best Racehorse during a posh ceremony at Claridge’s in London Tuesday.

American Pharoah, winner of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic during his brilliant campaign in 2015, was ranked atop the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings established by a group of international handicappers. The now-retired American Pharoah earned a ranking of 134 pounds, four more than European champion and second-ranked Golden Horn and eight more than the co-third-ranked duo of Shared Belief and Treve.

“What a grand finale,” said Ahmed Zayat, owner and breeder of American Pharoah in the name of his family’s Zayat Stables. “American Pharoah is a horse of a lifetime, but not only was he brilliant on the racetrack he connected with everyone in America. He brought us all hope. For 37 years we were waiting for a horse like that and he was finally the one.

“But what I want everybody to remember about American Pharoah is not only was he majestic, the way he raced and how much he actually liked winning the way he did is how much he was the people’s horse. Everybody in America had an access to him. He connected, he loved people. The persona of this special athlete is beyond. He was cuddly, he was lovable, he was friendly, (whether it) was a toddler or an older gentleman he knew the difference. He was brilliantly smart. This year was unreal. Look at the competition. Wonderful group of owners and horses. To be able to do that and not only win the Triple Crown but to be internationally recognized is something very special for myself and my family and for Bob and all the American connections.”

The announcement of American Pharoah as the world’s best was basically a forgone conclusion since he led the standings for most of the year after victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The son of Pioneerof The Nile won seven of eight starts – the lone blemish a second in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga – and was an unanimous selection as Horse of the Year Saturday night.

Golden Horn would have easily been a lock to win the top honor if not for the presence of American Pharoah. He won six of eight, including the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Investec Epsom Derby, QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and Coral-Eclipse Stakes before a game second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland. Golden Horn’s ranking of 130 was the same as the last three horses named World’s Best Racehorse – co-titlists Black Caviar and Treve in 2013 and Just A Way in 2014.

“As a trainer and an owner, we’ve always been to these races and we always leave, ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda,’ ” trainer Bob Baffert said. “Every time I lost a race, the Triple Crown, I said, ‘I coulda done this…’ There was always something going on. He always checked the box. He did it all. It’s very rare. He just kept bringing it.”

Jockey Victor Espinoza was there when American Pharoah brought it in his eight races, including the capping 6 ½-length thrashing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.

“As you all know American Pharoah is one of the best horses I ever rode,” Espinoza said. “I can tell you, when I was on him and every time I ride him I feel like I was in the clouds. Just not even touch the ground.”

The first Longines World’s Best Horse Race Award was also presented during the ceremony and it went to Longchamp’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The Breeders’ Cup Classic ranked second and the York’s Juddmonte International was third. The rankings were determined using the ratings of the top four finishers in each race over the last three years.