American Pharoah ended the 37-year drought on Saturday, becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and now the goal is the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
The colt took command early in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) under a confident ride from jockey Victor Espinoza and they cruised around the track, rolling to a 5 ½ length victory with Frosted second and Keen Ice third.
The win was his seventh in a row, the combined winning margin now 35 ¾ lengths. The victory all but sewed up the Eclipse Award for top-three-year and Horse of the Year.
The colt came out of the race in good order and was shipped back to Churchill Downs where he will get a couple of days of well-deserved rest.
“He’s a little tired, but we’re probably more tired,” Baffert said per Claire Novak of Blood Horse. “He’s so tough, a couple days and he’ll be back to normal.”
The ultimate goal for the colt is the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and no plans were announced on his races leading up to the race.
His next races will likely be the Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park and the Travers (G1) at Saratoga this summer, both of those races restricted to three-year-olds.
He then would likely face older, perhaps in the Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita or the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park.
It is unlikely at this post that he races beyond his three-year-old season, heading to stud in 2016.
Fastest Belmont Since 2001
American Pharoah stopped the timer over a Belmont Park main track that was playing fast in 2:26.65, which was the fasted timing of the third jewel of the Triple Crown since Point Given’s 2:26 3/5 in 2001.
The winner earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, which was the highest number since the filly Rags to Riches posted a 107 in her win in 2007.
Last year Tonalist stopped the timer in 2:28.52 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.
Television Ratings Down
The overnight television ratings released by NBC show a 5% decrease over last year when California Chrome came up short in his bid for the triple Crown.
It was still the third highest Belmont, with the top being the 15.9 rating in 2004, the year Smarty Jones went for the Triple Crown.
Wagering Handle Down From Last Year
Handle on the Belmont Stakes was down over $9 million from last year. This year’s number was $82,437,630, while last year’s handle for the race was $91,515,973.
Handle on the entire card was $135,787,670, which was down over $14 million for last year. The numbers were not helped by Saturday’s opener, which scratched down to a field of three.
Honor Code Rolls in Met Mile
When American Pharoah finally faces older runners this fall, he is going to have to take on a strong group including Honor Code, who won Saturday’s Met Mile (G1).
The Shug McGaughey trainee was one of the most promising three-year-olds last year but injuries knocked him off the Kentucky Derby trail.
He won the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) in March with a strong late run and then was a disappointing fifth in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs, but there was no pace in that race.
There was plenty of pace in the Met Mile thanks to Private Zone, and the colt came rolling in the stretch late to win by 3 ¾ lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 112.
Jill Byrne takes First Million Dollar Finish Media Challenge
Jill Byrne of Churchill Downs finished in first in the first Million Dollar Finish Media Challenge. Breeders’ Cup will donate $1,000 to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance in her name.
I am in fourth place with 150 points. I correctly selected American Pharoah to win and Madefromlucky to finish sixth. I actually had Frosted second and Keen Ice third, which would have made me the winner, but went back and flipped the two on Friday.