The odds on favorite to win the 141st Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah did not disappoint. On late Saturday afternoon, May 2, 2015 the champion two-year-old that has won his most recent races by large margins won the first leg of the Triple Crown, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a race that was close for most of its two minutes between three horses, American Phaoroah, Dortmund and Firing line. In the end American Pharoah won by less than a length with Firing line coming second and Dortmund third.
American Pharoah took 2:03.02 to win the 1 ¼ mile race in front of a record crowd of 170,513 on a warm sunny day at Louisville, Kentucky’s Churchill Downs. As the race began, Dortmund and Firing lead the field, followed by American Pharoah and Carpe Diem. In the front stretch Firing Line took the lead, in the final stretch it was American Pharoah who took the lead from the outside to win by less than a length.
This year’s Kentucky Derby was overcrowded with talent, and the reason for such a close race. The victory was not only for the horse by jockey Victor Espinoza, 42 who won two consecutive Kentucky Derbies, having rode California Chrome to victory in 2014; Espinoza also rode the winning horse War Emblem in 2002. After the race Espinoza told the NBC Sports “I feel like the luckiest Mexican on earth,” speaking about about American Pharoah, Espinoza said, “He’s just an amazing horse. I finally let him run today… He’s been special since the day I rode him.”
The horse is owned by first time Kentucky Derby winner Egyptian Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables who’s Pioneer of The Nile finished second behind Mine that Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Pioneer of the Nile also sired American Pharoah. Zayat owned two other hoses that finished second Nehro in 2011 and Bodemeister in 2012.
The Derby winner is trained by Eclipse Award winning trainer Bob Baffert, this was Baffert’s fourth Kentucky Derby win having last won in 2002 on War Emblem. After the race Baffert expressed, “This American Pharoah, he’s something. He makes a trainer look good.” All of Baffert’s Derby winners have won the second leg of the Triple Crown with the Preakness Stakes but floundered at the end with the Belmont Stakes.
American Pharoah won the Eclipse Award in 2014 American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse. His major graded stakes wins include the Del Mar Futurity Front and Runner Stakes in 2014 during his two-year-old season and then in his three-year-old season he won the Rebel Stakesand impressively win by eight lengths the Arkansas Derby. Minutes before post time the betting favorites were American Pharoah at 5-2, Dortmund at 4-1, Carpe Diem at 7-1, and Firing Line at 9-1. On a $2 bet American Pharoah paid out $7.80.
As with all Kentucky Derby winners, there is excitement and hope that he will break the Triple Crown drought. Only 11 horses have won that honor, the last one 37 years ago won Affirmed won in 1978. Many horses however, have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown including the 140th Derby winner California Chrome.
California Chrome breezed through his first two victories, and seemed destined for a Triple Crown victory until another horse coming out of the gates at the Belmont Stakes injured him. Earlier this week Espinoza told USA Today Chrome would have won the elusive Triple Crown had it not been for his injury, “Oh yeah, for sure, no question about it.” Will it be American Pharoah’s year? We will have to wait and see for the next leg of the Triple Crown on May 16 with the Preakness Stakes.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian, Israeli and international news, anything from crime to human interest stories and everything in between.