The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Three names that have become prominent within the sports world even for the most casual of fans. These names represent a trophy that has jumped into the minds of sports fans in recent years, but had not been won for 37 years. These names represent the names of the three races needed to win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. A title that quite possibly could be the most difficult to obtain in all of sports. There is no automatic winner every season for the Triple Crown like other sports. Either someone wins it or nobody does and that is what makes the Triple Crown so unique.
The Triple Crown has become such a huge topic among sports followers because of the long drought that had grown between Triple Crown winners. During the 1970’s, thoroughbred horse racing saw three Triple Crown winners with arguably the greatest horse to ever race, Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, and Affirmed in 1978. During that time, it seemed as if the Triple Crown would become a common trophy in horse racing with winners coming one after the other. Little did we know, the exact opposite happened. After 1978, the next Triple Crown winner would not come for another 37 years, which made every Triple Crown race that much more interesting.
Since 1978, horse racing has seen 12 different occasions where a single horse had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness going into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown. The most recent Triple Crown hopefuls included California Chrome in 2014, Big Brown in 2008, Smarty Jones in 2004, Funny Cide in 2003, and War Emblem in 2002. Thousands of people would tune in to the Belmont Stakes with hopes of witnessing history and time and time again, history would slip out of reach. The near misses, however, had become very good for the sport of horse racing. More and more people would watch when the horses battled to win the elusive Triple Crown. With every near miss, came more excitement and pressure for a horse to finally breakout. The American public had started to become restless in wondering: When will we finally see a Triple Crown winner? The wait had seemed endless.
Just a year removed from another Triple Crown bid by California Chrome, 2015 brought another horse on to the National stage and this horse went by the name of American Pharoah. American Pharoah, led by owner and breeder Ahmed Zayat, Trainer Bob Baffert, and jockey Victor Espinoza. 2015 began with the prestigious running of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, which will determine what horse will make the Triple Crown bid. American Pharoah was able to steal the show and take 1st place at Churchill Downs. The next step for American Pharoah was the Preakness Stakes and this race would become even more challenging when it was raining heavily on race day. It would not rain on the American Pharoah parade though and another victory would come for the colt.
Two wins down and one to go and another Triple Crown bid in place for American Pharoah. The stage was set for the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 6th, 2015. Would history finally be made? The build up was incredible. Fans gathered around the racetrack and at their television sets around the country. The gamblers placed their final bets and soon enough, the race would be underway.
Finally the horse bolted out of the starting gate and the Belmont Stakes had begun. Right out of the gate, American Pharoah jumped out to an early lead and seemed to be running at a steady pace. Quickly horses made their moves up behind American Pharoah . Around the corner they came and the horse in second place, Frosted made his move. It looked as if Frosted was going to be able to overtake American Pharoah. It was happening again, another Triple Crown hopeful was going to go home empty handed. Before you knew it though, American Pharoah had held off Frosted and was heading into the final stretch with a slight lead. It was there that announcer Larry Collmus made what will go down as one of the most iconic calls in sports history, “And they’re into the stretch, and American Pharoah makes his run for glory as they come into the final furlong. Frosted is second. With one-eighth of a mile to go, American Pharoah’s got a two length lead. Frosted is all out at the sixteenth pole. And here it is! The 37-year wait is over! American Pharoah is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!”
FINALLY! American Pharoah brings home the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years and horse racing has its headline story.
Some may wonder, however, why should we care? What does it matter if some horse wins a few races?
It can be easy for people to think like that, but there is more to the story than just those three races for the crown. Preparation for the Triple Crown races begin long before the Kentucky Derby. Large amounts of money are spent by owners breeding horses and purchasing horses who they believe have potential. The money spent on these horses raise the stakes extremely high for the horse to perform, so the owner can wins their money back and then some.
The owners of the horses are not the only ones that are able to share in the wealth. Th spectators are able to as well. Betting on these exclusive races have the ability to give huge pay outs for those willing to risk the big bucks. The pressure surrounding these horses is insurmountable, but they don’t know it, they just know they are going out there to run. Betting on these events make each second of the race all that more interesting.
Even before the three big races of the Triple Crown, horses begin qualifying races when they are 2 years old and into 3 years old when they will race in the Triple Crown. Not all of the horses will qualify for every single leg of the Triple Crown, which is why it is not common to see a Triple Crown winner every year. A horse that is even able to qualify for all the races is impressive in itself. A horse that is able to win all three races is even more impressive because of the fact that the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness are both shorter than the Belmont Stakes, so a winning horse has both speed and stamina. These horses can do things that are unthinkable for humans, so witnessing the raw speed, power, and endurance of these horses is amazing to see.
With American Pharoah’s Triple Crown victory this past weekend, sports fans have witnessed history. It is not only the race victories that should be taken into account on how truly impressive this feat is. The fact that nobody had won the title in 37 years just goes to show how difficult winning the Triple Crown can be.
Now all we can do is sit back and wait to see if we will see this title more frequently, or if we will have to wait another 37 years. Only time will tell, but I can assure you, it will be just as fascinating to watch as American Pharoah in 2015.