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American Pharoah Wins First Triple Crown Since 1978 At Belmont Stakes

06/06/2015 06:55 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

American Pharoah has cemented his misspelled name among horse racing royalty, claiming the Triple Crown with his win at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, a feat not done since 1978.

Pharoah ended the longest Crown drought by sweeping the sport's top three races, becoming only the 12th horse ever to do so.

American Pharoah, ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza, beat a tough field of seven other thoroughbreds by 5 1/2 lengths.

Espinoza guided the three-year-old colt to the rail at the start, taking the lead in the first quarter. Trailing American Pharoah for most of the race was Materiality, before Mubtaahij and Frosted made plays for second. But no one could overtake American Pharoah, who secured his spot in history as he crossed the finish line.

Horses Frosted and Keen Ice took second and third, respectively. Mubtaahij finished fourth, followed by Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality.

American Pharoah paid $3.50, $2.80 and $2.50.

While he was a heavy favorite heading into the race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, American Pharoah had plenty going against him and his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. For one, Pharoah was competing with far less rest than his competitors, as the only horse at Belmont who ran in the other two Triple Crown races, the Preakness Stakes and the Kentucky Derby. Then there is the length of the Belmont track, which can easily leave horses running on empty before the finish line. Belmont is a 1 1/2-mile race, while the Derby is 1¼ miles and the Preakness 1 3/16 miles. For that reason, the final race in Triple Crown series is called the “Test of the Champion.”

Baffert, the second-oldest trainer to win the Triple Crown, according to NBC, said after the race he was "very emotional."

"I'm thinking about my parents. I wish they were alive to see this," Baffert said. "They were with me today. I was talking to them the whole race."

Also in attendance on Saturday was Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973. American Pharoah may join Secretariat on the short list of Triple Crown winners, but did so with a slower 2:26.65 time. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.

American Pharoah secured his Crown over the course of five weeks, winning the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and then the Preakness on May 16 on a rain-drenched track.

Along with the Crown, Pharoah’s win comes with a $800,000 winning. While it was Pharoah’s first attempt at the holy grail of racing, it was Baffert’s fourth, and jockey Espinoza’s third. “I've been through it three times," Baffert said. "I've been really lucky for three times, and I got beat by an inch one time."

I’m very emotional," Baffert said after the win. "I’m thinking about my parents. I wish they were alive to see this."

American Pharoah is owned by Ahmed Zayat, originally of Egypt, who became a successful businessman after moving to the U.S. at age 18.

Following the win, Zayat said the horse's accomplishments were for the sport.

"We need stars," Zayat said.

Expressing disbelief, Baffert added, "I still can't believe it happened," noting that the hunt for the Triple Crown has cause him a lot of "misery."

A sentiment American Pharoah's jockey shared, exclaiming, "Holy sh-t!" after the race.

"It's special," Espinoza added. "Cost me a lot of stress trying to get it, but finally...the third time's the charm."

With the win, Zayat takes home a cool $800,000 (with Espinoza getting $80,000 of that amount, according to NJ.com). Here's the full breakdown:

First: $800,000
Second: $280,000
Third: $150,000
Fourth: $100,000
Fifth: $60,000
Sixth: $45,000
Seventh: $35,000
Eighth: $30,000

Pharoah joins an elite group of horses who have won the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).

Correction: This article initially misstated the year in which Secretariat won the Triple Crown as 1978; it was 1973.

Also on HuffPost:

  • 1979 — Spectacular Bid, 3rd
    AP
    Coastal, second from right, ridden by Ruben Hernandez, makes the move to pass Spectacular Bid (5), with Ronnie Franklin, on the final turn during the Belmont Stakes.
  • 1981 — Pleasant Colony, 3rd
    AP
    Jockey George Martens is up in the saddle after guiding Summing (6) across the finish line to win the Belmont Stakes race at theBelmont. Highland Blade (3), with jockey Jacinto Vasquez in the stirrups, placed second, while Triple Crown contender Pleasant Colony with jockey Jorge Velasquez in the irons, approaches the finish line.
  • 1987 — Alysheba, 4th
    AP
    Trainer Jack Van Berg accompanies his horse Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron after failing in their bid for the Triple Crown.
  • 1989 — Sunday Silence, 2nd
    AP
    Easy Goer, piloted by Pat Day, left, moves to an eight-length finish ahead of Sunday Silence, second left, to win the Belmont Stakes.
  • 1997 — Silver Charm, 2nd
    AP
    Touch Gold and jockey Chris McCarron, bottom, pass Silver Charm and jockey Gary Stevens, top, and Free House, left, to win the Belmont Stakes. With 75 yards to go, Touch Gold snuck up on Stevens, who only caught the horse out of the corner of his eye, and Silver Charm did not react until 10 jumps from the wire when it was already too late.
  • 1998 — Real Quiet, 2nd
    AP
    Victory Gallop and jockey Gary Stevens (11) edge out Real Quiet and jockey Kent Desormeaux as they cross the finish line to win the Belmont Stakes.
  • 1999 — Charismatic, 3rd
    AP
    Lemon Drop Kid, left, with Jose Santos up; Stephen Got Even, second from left, with Shane Sellars up; Charismatic, second from right, with Chris Antley up; and Silverbulletday, with Jerry Bailey up, right, come around the fourth turn during the Belmont Stakes.
  • 2002 — War Emblem, 8th
    AP
    FILE - In this June 8, 2002, file photo, War Emblem and jockey Victor Espinoza, right, stumble into Magic Weisner and jockey Richard Migliore as they leave the starting gate during the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. The front-running War Emblem never recovered from the early collision, resulting in an eighth-place finish behind 70-1 long shot Sarava. As I'll Have Another prepares to attempt to win the Belmont Stakes in his quest to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first in 34 years on Saturday, June 9, 2012, The Associated Press takes a look at some of the 19 horses who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but came up short in the final leg of the Triple Crown, and how the race unfolded. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
  • 2003 — Funny Cide, 3rd
    AP
    FILE - In this June 7, 2003, file photo, Funny Cide, second from right, with jockey Jose Santos up, leads the field of six horses in the back stretch of the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. From left to right are Supervisor, with jockey John Velazquez; Ten Most Wanted, with Pat Day up; Empire Maker, with Jerry Bailey up; Dynever with Edgar Prado up; Funny Cide; and Scrimshaw, with with Gary Stevens up. Empire Maker won and Ten Most Wanted was second, with Funny Cide, the Triple Crown candidate, fading to third. (AP Photo/Ed Betz, File)
  • 2004 — Smarty Jones, 2nd
    AP
    FILE - In this June 5, 2004, file photo, jockey Edgar S. Prado, left, aboard Birdstone, reacts after winning the Belmont Stakes horse race as jockey Stewart Elliott, right, aboard Smarty Jones, watches at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Early duels with Rock Hard Ten and Eddington along the backstretch proved to be Smarty's undoing, as the horse would go on to tire in the stretch and be caught in the final 70 yards by 36-1 long shot Birdstone. As I'll Have Another prepares to attempt to win the Belmont Stakes in his quest to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first in 34 years on Saturday, June 9, 2012, The Associated Press takes a look at some of the 19 horses who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but came up short in the final leg of the Triple Crown, and how the race unfolded. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
  • 2008 — Big Brown, 9th
    AP
    FILE - in this June 7, 2008, file photo, jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard Big Brown, right, and eventual winner Da' Tara, under jockey Alan Garcia, left, run shortly after the start of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Big Brown won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but finished last at Belmont. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
  • 2012 — I'll Have Another, Scratched
    AP
    I'll Have Another is led to the winner's circle by groom Ignocenzio Diaz and Benjamin Perez for a retirement ceremony at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., on Saturday, June 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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