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The Chief doesn't seem real big on year-end compilations.
I'm figuring it's about dealing with the issues of the day at hand, moving ahead. So I'm gonna need a hook, an angle, a dodge, a lead.
So here it is: As we speak, American Pharoah is safely and securely ensconsed at Coolmore Ashford Stud in the paradisically named Versailles, Kentucky. You look at the Coolmore roster and your jaw drops with the thought of these horses, and the progeny they have already produced. The MLB All-Star game has absolutely nothing on these guys!
But the 'Pharoah will make it his own palace, at least for now. Cover charge: $200,000.
For 'Pharoah, running was easy. He will be judged by the success of his babies. And his wallet will reflect it.
But the son of Pioneerof the Nile, out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, is well bred. Pioneerof himself is out of Empire Maker (he out of the great Unbridled) and the Lord At War (Argentina) mare Star of Goshen. We could go on and on, but while you get the idea, they get the two hundred K.
As I sit here, I find myself still trying to process the fact that a game I love, and am fortunate enough to write about, produced in 2015 one of the most memorable horses, and seasons, in history.
American Pharoah won the effin' Triple Crown and then he won the Breeders' Cup Classic! A race that didn't exist for Secretariat, Seattle Slew or Affirmed.
He was a true super horse, his ace being the ability to recover after races - races he always ran all out. "Bob, it's the only way I know." I think I heard the big boy say that to Mr. Baffert.
He threw in the guttiest of races in the biggest race, the Kentucky Derby, running wide and willing the win over the others. Baffert later said he needed the race. Imagine needing a race and the race you're in is America's Derby!
'Pharoah caught the slop in the Preakness. He can "handle" the slop? Or he just didn't want to lose? Swimmingly, he led the whole damn way.
On to Elmont New York, American Pharoah, in my mind, was running hard, hate to say struggling, in the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes, The Test of Champions. Not a whip in sight, he drew a longer lead in the stretch, into history.
Early June to August 2, 'Pharoah's next spot was the Haskell Invitational, on Springsteen's Jersey Shore. Baffert always said the horse needs to run. Seemed to be some rust but 'Pharoah WD-40'd it and pulled away. Appropriately, big-guy announcer Frank Mirahmadi declared "The party continues!"
You could get upset that American Pharoah and, by rights, the people who helped him, wasn't named Sportsman of the Year. But Sports Illustrated is an irrelevant publication, a legacy media sheet that doesn't know who it is or where it's going. Serena Williams wasn't even the best tennis player this year.
And this comes here because Ahmed Zayat, rumored against the wishes of trainer Bob Baffert, chose to take American Pharoah to hallowed Saratoga, to the Travers Stakes, one of the greatest races in the world. Victor Espinoza, the grooms and staff, they should all be Sportsmen of the Year. What they gave us! THAT is sportsmanship. Versus the Pennsylvania Derby, where California Chrome went. This is the respect fans rarely get. But the horse was so good, I believe he demanded it. "Let me run!"
As is his wont, 'Pharoah took the lead in the Travers, where they paint the canoe with the winner's colors, but got into a pace duel with Frosted. He lost the lead on the turn and then regained it, by two lengths, in the stretch. You want heroism? But it burned him and Keen Ice, who had been knocking on the door all year, flew up on the outside for the win. The way 'Pharoah ran . . . heart.
In the bittersweet, we got one more. The Breeders' Cup Classic. You get tempered hard in this game, horses retired in July. Losing the bet, yeah, but no more Ghostzapper, Smarty Jones, Curlin, Rachel Alexandra; it's tough.
I think American Pharoah told these people "Give me one more goddamned chance."
Since 1984, call it the modern era. Secretariat, in late 1973, had to pick his spots. American Pharoah had a sweet spot available to him.
And I'll be honest. While, of course, I didn't want to see him lose (although horses do lose races), I wanted him to win. And I wanted him to win in grand fashion. Not just win, but win well. Befitting.
And he did! He sure did.
He took the effin' one-1.5-two lane, traditionally death at Keeneland Race Course, but playing well that day. Fairness, don't you know? Wasn't a huge fan of jockey Victor Espinoza, but for this season, he was awesome.
And the 'Pharoah did it again! Led all the way. Watching these races, I believe his strength was in the turns. He uses the centrifugal energy to go so much more faster on the turns. That's where he made his lengths leads. And I clapped again today. I cheered. Goosebumps.
No offense to anyone, but while some lionize a Cubs team who had a nice season with no adversity, we'll see how that goes when Jack Armstrong goes on the DL. And the Pavlovian attention given to the Chipmunks of the Midway? A Reinsdorf who doesn't care about anything but separating you from your money.
In my little slice, I had all the wonder of the world.
There's only really one person I know who feels the same way, and she knows who she is. Pretty much everyone I know doesn't even know who American Pharoah is, and what he did, and how much it means, and that's telling. How could they not?
It's frustrating. This is one of the greatest achievements in sports history, by the horse and the people. Couldn't be done; wouldn't be done. But done.
This horse, and his people, gave us a magical season. You'd be stupid to expect it. But yet, we got it.
But that's alright. I will remember American Pharoah, and the opportunity to write about him, as long as I live.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Feb 24, 2017