Leading up to the 2015 Belmont Stakes, the main narrative surrounded the fact that no horse had won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Well, following a historic day at Belmont Park, we can now say that no horse has won the Triple Crown since American Pharoah in 2015.
The impressive Bob Baffert-trained colt dazzled once again and achieved horse racing immortality as a result. Pharoah successfully ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought after running the Belmont Stakes with a time of 2:26.65—a time that proved to be the fastest since 1992 and second-fastest of all Triple Crown winners, behind just the legendary Secretariat.
Adding to Pharoah's incredible showing Saturday was his wire-to-wire victory. That's a phenomenal achievement in its own right considering the lengthy 1 ½-mile distance of the Belmont Stakes. In fact, Pharoah was only the second horse in the last 30 years to lead the race from start to finish.
Just in case you missed the colt's historic run at Belmont Park, or simply want to relive the moment over and over again, here's a look back at the race in its entirety:
In the end, Pharoah defeated runner-up Frosted by a total of 5 ½ lengths—the fourth-largest winning margin at Belmont by a Triple Crown winner. Keen Ice ran a solid race to finish third, and international horse Mubtaahij finished fourth.
It wasn't a memorable day for trainer Todd Pletcher. He was thought to have a pair of horses in Materiality and Madefromlucky that would challenge Pharoah in the Triple Crown's third jewel. Well, it didn't turn out that way, as the colts finished sixth and eighth, respectively.
Here's a look at the complete order of finish and the prize-money payouts for each contender:
|2015 Belmont Stakes Order of Finish and Prize Money|
|1||5||American Pharoah||Victor Espinoza||2:26.65||$800,000|
|2||6||Frosted||Joel Rosario||5 1/2||$280,000|
|3||7||Keen Ice||Kent Desormeaux||7 1/2||$150,000|
|4||1||Mubtaahij||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||7 3/4||$100,000|
|5||4||Frammento||Mike Smith||16 1/4||$60,000|
|6||3||Madefromlucky||Javier Castellano||18 3/4||$45,000|
|7||2||Tale of Verve||Gary Stevens||21 1/2||$35,000|
|8||8||Materiality||John Velazquez||23 1/4||$30,000|
If you decided to place a wager on Pharoah to win—or were one of the lucky ones to have faith in Keen Ice to show—here's a look at the payout you can expect:
|2015 Belmont Stakes Payouts|
So, how did we come to this end result?
Pharoah was known for his great starts in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and while he didn't have the cleanest break at Belmont, he was able to get back on track immediately, showcasing his great acceleration to charge though the middle of the pack and settle into the lead position well before the first turn.
The decision to allow Pharoah to run hard early and get out in front was a wise one by veteran jockey Victor Espinoza. Leading the race from the beginning was a huge advantage for a horse with the speed and stamina of Pharoah, as he avoided running too far off the rail and adding extra distance to an already long race.
Espinoza shared his thoughts at this point in the race during a post-race press conference, per Dan Wolken of USA Today:
I noticed as soon as I sat in the saddle there was so much power, so much energy. My plan was to open up a length out of the gate and hit the turn one or two lengths (ahead) and from there I can slow him down and let him be happy. It's so nice to be on a horse like American Pharoah. That was the best feeling I ever had in the first turn.
Due to Pharoah's ability to glide around the track while maintaining enough stamina for a late charge to the finish line, Espinoza allowed the colt to maintain a brisk pace throughout the race. Pharoah galloped to the three-quarter mile mark at a time of just 1:13.41, holding on to his one-length lead all the while.
At the top of the stretch, Pharoah increased his lead to two lengths. He received a bit of chase from Frosted, who was beginning to make a run from the inside, but the challenge fell flat, as Frosted began to run out of gas, while Pharoah continued his blazing pace to the finish line. The end result was a 5 ½-length victory and a spot in the history books.
Owner Ahmed Zayat was elated after the race and didn't hold back when speaking with Wolken, saying, "It's really about defining the greatness of American Pharoah. I've said he's a very good horse, he could be special but in order for you to come and win the Triple Crown you have to define greatness. He does everything so easy. We all wanted it for the sport."
It was a great moment for Zayat, Baffert, Espinoza, horse racing and, especially, American Pharoah. This was the first Triple Crown win many of us have seen in our lifetimes, and it won't soon be forgotten, as Pharoah—the horse with the stubby tail and misspelled name—will now be held in the same regard as Secretariat and the all-time greats.