American Pharoah sealed an historic Triple Crown with a swift and powerful late surge to win the Belmont Stakes. As just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history, Pharoah wrapped up a trio of stylish victories beginning at the Kentucky Derby and culminating in victory at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Picking a favourite or most impressive moment from Pharoah's three-pronged effort is no easy task. Although perhaps few would argue that the stride over the final stretch at Big Sandy wasn't a particularly thrilling moment.
Joe Drape of the New York Times described the moment along with its historical significance: "But as American Pharoah bounded into the stretch amid a deafening roar, the memories of the gritty Affirmed, the speedy Seattle Slew (1977) and that tremendous machine Secretariat (1973) were summoned from backside to grandstand, and rightfully so."
The New York Racing Association's official YouTube channel carried highlights of the race, including those stunning final laps:
The horse acted superbly on a notoriously arduous course. Extra weight proved a major advantage as none of the nearest contenders were strong enough to match the surge.
Being able to muster the power and energy for a late sprint even after a sluggish start is certainly a testament to Pharoah's quality. It's one reason why the horse has surely earned its place among the greats of racing.
That's an issue debated by B/R racing analyst Jessica Paquette. She believes the horse is "something awfully special" and that history will remember Pharoah's achievement well:
Of course, he had already built part of that reputation at Kentucky. Pharoah showed true grit to win a particularly intense duel over the final stretch.
The colt was typically powerful and pacy over barely a fraction of the last mile. Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports noted how gruelling the victory margin, the "smallest in the Derby in a decade," was for Pharoah: "But American Pharoah had to work for it like never before. A colt who had glided to four straight victories had to lay his belly down, in racing parlance, to win this one."
Take a look at how the Victor Espinoza-rode horse navigated the race, courtesy of this video from the Sports Entertainment Network YouTube channel:
Resilience won the day at Kentucky, preceding the final flourish at Belmont. Those efforts bookended Pharoah's spectacular showing at the Preakness Stakes.
As soon as the horse crossed the winner's post at Pimlico Race Course, he already had people dreaming of an end to the Triple Crown jinx that had lasted nearly four decades. Daniel Ross of the Guardian noted how Espinoza was "far more aggressive from the gates than in the Kentucky Derby."
That aggression served as the prompting for an awesome final sprint over a muddied track that was more slop than firm footing. Here are the highlights, once again via the Sports Entertainment Network:
Producing such an eye-popping display of speed and power to defy the tough conditions was the first signal of Pharoah's capability to claim the Triple Crown.
The bay colt's place in history is now cemented forever. It's been too long since a horse of this class overcame the field and refused to let its talent succumb to a hectic schedule or differing course conditions.