by LAURA PUGH
Forget my two front teeth; all I want for Christmas is another American Pharoah.
In 2015 we saw just how high a single horse could lift a sport when he captures the hearts of a nation. American Pharoah, throughout his campaign, became more than just a horse—he became an idol. He helped endorse an energy drink, graced the cover of Vogue, and generated more mainstream coverage than any horse in my lifetime.
American Pharoah became a celebrity superstar. Record crowds gathered for his Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic tries and probably would have in New York if not for attendance caps at both the Belmont and Travers Stakes, two events that generated a seldom-heard phrase in racing: “sold out.”
I wish for another horse like this in 2016. I wish for another horse that can capture the hearts of not just the hard core fans of the sport, but the causal ones as well. American Pharoah ignited a spark, and racing needs to fan its flame.
There are plenty of candidates to choose from in 2016. Songbird and Rachel’s Valentina are two brilliantly fast fillies, and one of them is the daughter of Rachel Alexandra, one of the most influential fillies in recent years. What about California Chrome? He captured the hearts of American in 2014 when he made his bid for the Triple Crown. The flashy colt still has quite the fan base, why not promote that? What about Dortmund, who ran in the shadow of stablemate American Pharoah during the Triple Crown trail, but has come back to flash the talent that some believed surpassed that of American Pharoah’s.
Racing is in the public eye more than ever before. Social Media has made promotion of our stars easier than ever, so if these horses continue their brilliance into 2016, racing should run with them.
American Pharoah ignited a spark that has grown into a flame. He’s given racing an opportunity to return to the spotlight. It is my wish for Christmas that we don’t squander it, but nurture the flame into a full blown forest fire. Another American Pharoah would ensure my wish would come true.