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American Pharoah wins Triple Crown in Belmont Stakes

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah crosses the finish

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah crosses the finish line at the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park in Elmont. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The long wait is over. Racing finally has its 12th Triple Crown hero.

American Pharoah defeated Frosted by several lengths late Saturday afternoon in the 147th Belmont Stakes, becoming the first horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the "Test of the Champion" since Affirmed in 1978.

He ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.65 at Belmont Park in his seventh consecutive victory, all in stakes, for trainer Bob Baffert and owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat.

"Wow, wow," jockey Victor Espinoza said after the race.

It was the record fourth time Baffert tried for the elusive Crown, after being denied with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002). Espinoza lost on War Emblem and on California Chrome last year.

"I just feel like I have a very special horse," Baffert said.

Pharoah had fueled hope he was good enough to claim the most coveted trophy in sports. His seven-length runaway in the Preakness guaranteed he would be odds-on in the Belmont, and many people bought win tickets on him that they intended to save rather than cash at very short odds.

"In the first turn," Espinosa said about when he knew American Pharoah would win the race. Pharoah led the entire race.

The long-striding bay son of Pioneerof the Nile has become a cash colt for Zayat. Besides earning more than $3.7 million entering the Belmont, the recent sale of his breeding rights to Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky, reportedly was worth at least $22 million and perhaps as much as $30 million.

Earlier this week, Zayat spoke of wanting to race Pharoah through his 3-year-old season. When the syndication deal was completed last month, Zayat said he would be in total control of the remainder of the horse's racing career, although he said it was "unlikely" he would run next year.

"A sport without any stars is not a sport," said Zayat, a 52-year-old entrepreneur born in Egypt and educated in the United States. "We'll race him as long as he remains happy, healthy and we can do it. The horse comes first."

Zayat's 23-year-old son, Justin, serves as his racing manager. On Tuesday, shortly before the colt arrived at Belmont after a flight from Kentucky, Ahmed Zayat spoke of American Pharoah as if he were his fifth child.

"As the breeder of this horse, seeing him since he was born," he said, "it's like looking at your son playing on a team that's in the Super Bowl."

Starting with Spectacular Bid in 1979, American Pharoah was the 14th horse to win the Derby and Preakness. Twelve of them lost in the Belmont. In 2012, I'll Have Another was scratched because of a career-ending tendon injury the day before the race.



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