Note:  This ended up being written in a rather stream-of-consciousness” manner, as I was finishing my last course for my degree; also the reason for its late posting. But late or not, I definitely want to continue to cover Pharoah’s career in the pages of this blog.

American Pharoah took center stage once more in August 2015, just as he had 57 days previously in a Belmont Stakes tour-de-force. Since then he’d been feted by fans, media, and celebrities from all walks of life. His popularity was too large to contain within the boundaries of the racing world.  He really is a superstar, as owner Ahmed Zayat called him on the Haskell telecast.

While he has been training, and subsequently photographed and videotaped extensively since his Triple Crown win, my last class and full-time work in a new field had mostly kept my nose to the grindstone. He is the first Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, something I am so glad to see at last.  But as I had to get down to work not long after he won it, I had rejoiced in the moment and for a few days after but then everything become a blur of work.  I did buy a shirt and hat a local Kroger offered with his name on them that also honored him as a Triple Crown winner. They were more items for my racing memorabilia collection, along with the win ticket from the Belmont Stakes with his name on it and the program from Belmont for that day.

But because of getting swept up in the shuffle of work, until his race on August 2nd, I had not had a lot of time to still bask in his win and what an amazing horse he is.  I was glad of the chance to do that once more.  The whole reason I moved to Kentucky years ago, the whole reason I have put so much work into this degree, is to be part of this racing industry. And the whole reason this racing industry has captivated me so much is because of the horses like American Pharoah – not Triple Crown winners, necessarily, though they certainly have their place in drawing me in, but also the Rachel Alexandras, the Zenyattas, even the claimer that you may just lock eyes with one day who doesn’t go on to do big things but who still drew you in on a personal level.  The telecast reminded me why there are few thrills like racing, few things that after years and years still pull me in so strongly and are so exciting just because of the nature of the game, the adrenalin when the horses race by, when your favorite is going postward and the anticipation is so thick you can taste it.

And I loved that the show started with a recap of his Triple Crown journey, from the sun-splashed Derby to the parading most of the length of the grandstand, one of my favorite personal memories of all time, to the deluge at the Preakness that never fazed him, to the way he just couldn’t be stopped in the Belmont, making it look laughingly easy.  I wrote a while ago that while it is clear he is a horse of rare ability, with his incredible stride and the way he takes everything in stride, and the way he just makes it look so effortless, that it was still too soon to say what his place in history would be.  And this is not meant to be demeaning at all. I fully realize after the way he ran through his Triple Crown races, he is not a horse the likes of which we will see often.  But the prudent part of me still wanted to see how the rest of his career unfolded before fully saying, this is his place in history.

So it was nice to get “reacquainted” with him through the telecast – the reminder of all he ran through to win the Crown, the way the grandstand shook after his Belmont win, as recalled by Zayat… and I got goosebumps …. and it reminded me once more what an amazing horse he is to witness, and why I love racing, and how it is one more reason I will be grateful this degree will be behind me because I can jump into keeping up with that world once more…. ironically often put on the back burner though it makes my heart beat faster and brings me such joy….

And then seeing Pharoah as the previous video gave way to live shots …. gleaming coat, muscles, incredible beyond description, and still as calm and collected as ever, the kind of horse that makes you stop and watch and you don’t even have to be told he’s the TC winner, he’s just in a realm of his own and it shows with every step and even as he stands still, there’s just that air about him the great ones have…

Exuded even through my TV screen

and reminders of his floating stride

the long shadow of the Belmont gate across the track the day he burst through, like the long shadow of the drought of TC winners but he would outrun that shadow just as he burst forward to the lead almost immediately, leave it behind and never look back

and it became clear that he would do the same today

going into the first turn it was so clear he was just waiting for Espinoza to tell him when to run, that he had all the energy and power needed and then some

none of these horses, as impressive as Keen Ice, as impressive as Upstart looked, were his match

He’s in that realm of his own and he began to run off, opening up daylight in a matter of seconds before Espinoza eased him down and he won as he always does, effortlessly, ears pricked and with reserve in the tank. He could have won by a much further distance, but no need. It was clear he was just toying with his rivals and it was another race he made look like a easy paycheck, a little hack through the park for the fun of it, and I got goosebumps once more because though he made it look easy it was clear he only made it look easy because he just is a far superior horse to most, and yes I am a little more ready now to say what his place in history will be.  Whatever his race record is from here, he will be one of the best I’ve seen ever. A 3-year-old can still be somewhat of an unknown quantity and I had of course never seen a Triple Crown winner to compare. But he was showing what I suspected, what it takes to be a TC winner is a rare breed indeed.  Summer still lingers but the winds of fall will blow in soon, and there is a bit of a sense of the limited time left of his race career.  It is a time to savor,  not be sad about, but we are humans, we look ahead and you want to grab those moments and experience them.

I want to remember them as personal memories.

Watching him through a TV screen is incredible, but the part of me that waited so long for a TC winner wants to see him in action once more. Wants to go to wherever he races next.  It is not a thing I want to wish I’d done. I want to make it happen. First I pass this class. Then Pharoah lets them know the plan. Then hopefully I find myself on a plane to join him wherever he runs next.  Stay tuned…..

(Since I’ve written those words, it has become clear it may not be that feasible to go wherever he runs. Yet if he continues to do well and bounce out of races as remarkably as Bob Baffert indicates he does, then he will be in my “backyard” at Keeneland in October and there will be time to see him in action once more, and then of course at Ashford as he takes up stud duties. Whether I see him in person or not, I look forward to what the rest of his career brings.  It may be a tough task to win the Classic this fall against top older horses, but he has made so much look effortless. I give him a serious chance there, and even if he doesn’t win all his remaining races, an on-the-board finish in the Classic will not diminish his legacy in any way. I don’t see it as diminishing Zenyatta’s when she finished second to Blame, and I don’t see it as diminishing his if he doesn’t win. But I have faith he can, absolutely.)