Newspaper article International New York Times

A Long Line of Failed Attempts at Triple Crown ; American Pharoah Has the Resume to Win, but So Did Lots of Other Horses

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Long Line of Failed Attempts at Triple Crown ; American Pharoah Has the Resume to Win, but So Did Lots of Other Horses

Article excerpt

American Pharoah has some advantages in his quest for a Triple Crown, but plenty of other horses have had advantages, too.

So here we go again: Days after another Preakness Stakes, and horse-racing aficionados once more have a bounce in their step. For the 14th time in the last 36 years, a horse will pull into Belmont Park with an opportunity to become the 12th Triple Crown champion, and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

I've written that phrase countless times, referring to eight other horses, including California Chrome just last year. Now there's a ninth, American Pharoah, the colt that looked like a cigarette boat skimming atop a sloppy track here Saturday on his way to an emphatic seven-length victory.

Within seconds, my phone and social media accounts lit up, and continue to do so, with different versions of the same question: "Is American Pharoah the horse to finally complete one of the most difficult feats in sports?"

My answer is that I haven't a clue, and the times I thought I did, I watched my horse lose by a bob (Real Quiet in 1998), get run down in a stretch (Smarty Jones in 2004) or be compromised by a questionable ride, as California Chrome was last year. Just as most horse owners try to abide by the golden rule of always accepting a better-than-fair price when it's offered for a colt or filly, most horseplayers try, but mostly fail, to honor their own version: that nobody knows nothing.

So let's stick first with what American Pharoah has going for him.

He is the reigning 2-year-old champion, as were six of the last seven Triple Crown champs. Like Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Citation, Count Fleet and Whirlaway, American Pharoah demonstrated brilliance early in his career. Only Assault failed to earn the 2- year-old title. It is a foundation that American Pharoah has continued to build on, winning all four of his races as a 3-year- old for a record of six victories in seven starts and more than $3.7 million in purses.

American Pharoah also has a running style similar to those of many of the greats. He likes to be on or near the front early in the race, possesses a high cruising speed and has a grittiness that wears down his rivals in the late going. …

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