The outcome was long anticipated and the race itself epic as Triple Crown hero American Pharoah rolled home the easiest of winners in Saturday’s $4.55 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland to complete the newly anointed Grand Slam of Racing.
The buildup to the race has been intense, with some proclaiming this the best Classic field in years, but American Pharoah remained cool, calm and collected throughout the entire ordeal.
His connections – owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza – put themselves out there for interviews and questions, and allowed unprecedented fan access to the popular bay.
But it all came down to the Classic, which was being run for the first time ever at Keeneland in the heart of horse country, Lexington, Kentucky.
Breaking from post 4, American Pharoah shot straight to the lead and proceeded on an easy gallop in front of the stands and onto the backstretch through splits of :23.99, :47.50 and 1:11.21.
Effinex, a 33-1 longshot, got the closest to American Pharoah of anyone, but even that occurred at the start before the four-year-old found himself trailing behind the champion. Effinex tried his best but couldn’t make up any ground as the bay sophomore swung around the turn and headed into the lane.
American Pharoah continued galloping along to finish 1 1/4 miles over Keeneland’s fast dirt in a new track record of 2:00.07. He was 6 1/2 lengths clear on the wire as the heavy 3-5 favorite and paid $3.40.
Effinex maintained his runner-up spot by 4 1/2 lengths over 9-2 second choice Honor Code, who in turn was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Keen Ice.
That colt, who handed American Pharoah his only loss this year in the Travers S. (G1) last out, got the better of a blanket three-horse photo when nosing out Tonalist for fourth. It was another nose back to Hard Aces, who in turn kept his head in front of Frosted. Gleneagles completed the field 12 1/2 lengths behind Frosted.
American Pharoah achieved something that has never been done before by winning the Classic. The Kentucky homebred became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years after sweeping the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness S. (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) – the latter two by a combined 12 1/2 lengths – earlier in the season.
He was given a slight rest before returning to take the Haskell Invitational S. (G1) at Monmouth Park, then suffered his tough loss when caught in the shadow of the wire by Keen Ice in Saratoga’s Travers on August 29.
American Pharoah hasn’t competed since the Travers. Instead, Baffert decided to train his superstar pupil up to the Breeders’ Cup, and the move paid dividends – and guaranteed Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old male – when the colt loped home under Espinoza to complete the new Grand Slam of Racing comprised of the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
American Pharoah photo courtesy of Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com