I’ve seen history in the making, and his name is American Pharoah

Another Triple Crown winner at last, thanks to American Pharoah.

Another Triple Crown winner at last, thanks to American Pharoah.

It’s all over the news today, oh boy.

A big horse did a big thing Saturday at Belmont Park in Queens, N.Y.

And I know this will not pass the shrug test this Sunday morning to a lot of you around the U S of A. So gather round, boys and girls, ladies and gentleman, and hear the tale of why the dashing American Pharoah, under the guidance and the backside of the crafty jockey Victor Espinoza, accomplished something special.

It’s about the history of the thing and the excitement of the moment.

Horse racing, thoroughbred horse racing, used to be held high in sporting circles until it, like boxing (and baseball truth be told) took a tumble in popularity from decade to decade to decade. People would watch the big three, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, with much interest. And they’d go to tracks around the country, too, not just those most revered places at Churchill Downs in Louisville or Pimlico in Baltimore or the New York park, and put down their two dollars to root on their horse. They’d care.

So I remember being a high school kid watching on TV with my family in 1973 when a huge horse by the name of Secretariat thundered past the field at Belmont by an amazing 31 lengths to win the Triple Crown and the hearts of America. The feat had not been accomplished since Citation in 1948, a 25-year-gap that might as well have been forever to me. I sat amazed and the country went ago.

Oh, after that, Seattle Slew won it in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Slew was big and fast and I remember less about Affirmed except that it seemed easier to do this than I thought.

Wrong.

I was still hooked.

I watched the Belmont and cheered others as they failed in this third jewel of the crown, a longer race than the first two, a tougher test for the length and the accumulation of the effects of the previous pair and maybe even the horse’s sense of the pressure mounting on the humans surrounding it.

spectacular Bid failed the very next year after winning the first two legs, heartbreak in 1979. There was the three-year run of almosts from 2002-2004 with War Emblem, Funny Cide and the wonderfully named Smarty Jones. Last year I pulled for California Chrome.

Yesterday American Pharoah look strong among the field of eight on the parade to the gate.

Yesterday Espinoza guided the horse smoothly left from the fifth starting position and ran the rail like a champion.

Yesterday I stood and cheered in a bar in Cape Cod as American Pharoah pulled away in the stretch, two, three, four, five lengths to give silver-haired trainer Bob Baffert his Triple Crown.

Everybody in the joint clapped spontaneously at this magnificent horse crossed the finish line, collectively feeling the moment, witnessing history in the making, at last after 37 years.

A flat screen in a Cape Cod joint captures Victor Espinoza on American Pharoah celebrating the Triple Crown.

A flat screen in a Cape Cod joint captures Victor Espinoza on American Pharoah celebrating the Triple Crown.

Do you pay attention to horse racing? Did you watch the Belmont Stakes yesterday, and if so, where and which horse did you want to win? Do you think too much attention was given to this accomplishment?

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36 thoughts on “I’ve seen history in the making, and his name is American Pharoah

  1. An amazing moment- history making- it seemed impossible not to feel the excitement even if you do not follow horse racing. (the owner of the horse lives a few blocks from me- so somehow that added to all the excitement too!)

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  2. I knew it–watching that last race, when he dominated in the slop, I knew he’d be the one. I’m not a horse fan at all, but this one captivated me–let’s say I recognized him as a horse of destiny, and that makes me smile. There’s so little greatness for us to enjoy in life.

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    • Thanks, Chuck. Yeah, when I watched him mudder it with style at Pimlico, I got real excited, too. But so much can happen. When he pulled away at the stretch yesterday I shouted, “Secretariat moment!” Way to go on your prediction of greatness. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Quite an achievement Mark. I don’t follow horse racing, but winning the Tripe Crown transcends the sport and becomes a part of the narrative of our culture. Nicely done.

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  4. I love horse racing. I definitely watched and while I was not around yet for Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, I was well versed in it through my dad, who was from Louisville. Derby Day was a national holiday in our house. I made Owen stop his movie and come watch the Belmont with me. Just as my dad did, I found myself telling Owen all about the history and answering all of his questions leading up to the gate. He will thank me later for making him watch history in the making.

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  5. I watched yesterday, and I watched the last three triple crown winners. I’m afraid it will be a flash in the pan of our culture. It’s a big deal to me. It’s up there with Ted William’s .400 batting average.

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    • You’re my era, Boyack. We’ll forever remember this one. As you say, though, I’m not sure how much it’ll move the bar with newbies. Maybe some young versions of ourselves somewhere out there. See my friend Hollie’s comment about schooling her son Owen yesterday. That’s hope there. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. I enjoy horse racing a lot. Around here we only have harness racing which is a different animal, all together. There is an OTB close by but I seldom go there. I would dig it but the wallet wouldn’t.

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  7. amazing feat – i used to watch the derby with my family when i was little and now really only follow that race of the triple crown. i hope to attend one day. and yesterday will go down in history for sure )

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  8. Great post, Mark. I was excited to hear that American Pharoah won.

    I hate to be a pedant, but Secretariat won in 1973. I know this because that was the year of my birth, and I think I was brought home from the hospital on Derby Day. Secretariat’s Triple Crown is kind of family lore around my first few weeks of life. Dad occasionally mentions the two together.

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    • You are correct, and I knew it was 73. I fixed my typo. What an exciting day for Secretariat to win the Derby, the day you were brought home from the hospital, Karen! Thanks for alerting me to my slip.

      And yes, I’m glad we have a new Triple Crown winner after all these years.

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  9. I still remember watching Secretariat win all three parts of the Triple Crown in ’73, each showing more spectacular than the last. It spoiled me forever, but I feel privileged to have seen those races live, including the Kentucky Derby that he won by 32 lengths. Thirty-two lengths! It sounds absurd. I cheered for American Pharoah and was glad to see him win it all, for there were glimmers of Secretariat at times, but then I believe he’s a descendent of probably the greatest horse I’ll see in my lifetime. But I’ll still cheer them on.

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    • Yes, Christina, seeing Secretariat did leave an awful high bar for the rest of our horse race-viewing lifetimes. I agree. AP doesn’t match up. But the excitement did, at last. Thanks for sharing your memories here.

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  10. My neighbor was outside talking with us but was very excited!!! She had to go back in and watch American Pharoah, who I had never heard of. After that visit I have learned quite a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ But it did throw me back to remembering Secretariat and that win when I was nearly a child still. I do remember that excitement. So cheers to American Pharoah (who we did go back in the house to see if won….!!!) ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. I thought he was going to run out of gas. Those early leads rarely hold. I kept telling my daughter he wasn’t going to make it but she said he would. We went back and forth. No he won’t. Yes he will. No he won’t. Yes he will. HE DID! She was right again.

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    • I was on the side of your daughter, Mark, because it never looked like he was running hard even as he led the first half of the race. It looked like Espinoza had him under control, and he was still faster than the other seven. I even shouted that it looked like he was out for an easy run at the half point. I think the regulars in this Cape Cod bar may have been glad to see me go after the race. My quiet dear wife Karen could have stayed for another, I’m sure. Hey, I made the most out of their 72 inch flat screen and $2.50 drafts for an hour. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Saratoga is the real deal, Scott. I went once, 25 years ago with a buddy from work on an impromptu day trip during Travers week. The place was packed, and we couldn’t even get inside the grandstand until the eighth race. But my friend hit the daily double and then paid for us to play at the beautiful state park golf course just up the road. Great day!

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