By Josh Caudill
Three years ago today, American Pharoah made history. It took 37 years after Affirmed won the Triple Crown before horse racing fans would see another horse come along with that kind of magic. On June 6, 2015, American Pharoah was finally “the one” as Larry Collmus put it in his famous call at the Belmont Stakes. Today — for a few more days — he is the world’s only living Triple Crown winner.
Justify is hard on his heels though, having already won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and just days away from the Belmont Stakes. In addition to Bob Baffert training both horses, memories of the beloved American Pharoah taking the Triple Crown and then the 2015 Breeders Cup at Keeneland is on the mind of all Kentucky horse racing fans this week.
“It was clear from the outset that American Pharoah was a special horse,” said Dermot Ryan, the manager of Ashford Stud. “The McKathan brothers, Kevin and J.B. who broke him in and started his early training were astonished by both his superior physical ability and relaxed mentality. Bob Baffert said that he was the fastest 2-year-old he ever had. Aside from his physical prowess and sensational talent on the track, what also set him apart from his contemporaries was, and still is, his exceptional temperament.”
After becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner in history by winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah continued his display of dominance in 2015 by breaking the track record at Keeneland by more than five seconds in his win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He’s the only horse to win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.
“It has been a privilege to train this horse. This is the greatest horse I’ll ever see. He is a champion,” Baffert told the press after American Pharoah’s final race.
The pressure of those big G1 races is a lot for most horses to handle, but as Ryan tells it, he always took everything in his stride. American Pharoah would finish his racing career at 9-1 with nearly $9 million in total earnings before owner Ahmed Zayat retired him.
What does he do now that he’s no longer thrilling fans on the track? Living the good life while standing at stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles. He spends his day eating and relaxing in his spacious stall, roaming in his own paddock, but what keeps him most preoccupied is—breeding.
“American Pharoah will breed a full book of mares again this year, usually covering two or three mares a day from February through until June,” Ryan said. “All of our stallions are turned out in their own individual paddocks every morning, where they can run around and graze, some will also be hand walked or lunged for exercise to keep them fit.”
His stud fee is listed as private this year and he spends the Southern Hemisphere season being shuttled to Australia. According to Ryan, American Pharoah has been very well received by the industry. A pair of his weanlings have already brought $1,000,000 each in the sales ring and Ashford Stud is really looking forward to the major yearling sales this autumn, then of course his first runners next year.
“He has set the bar very high for himself,” Ryan said. “but he is a special horse, and if he can achieve half of what he accomplished on the racecourse here in his new job then we all have a lot to look forward to.”
In person, American Pharoah appears relaxed and friendly and not the least bit camera shy. Since he came to Ashford to stand as a stallion, Ryan has been impressed by his demeanor. He says, “He’s a true gentleman and a real pleasure to deal with. We are very lucky to have him here for this phase of his career.”
Pharoah is very popular with both the breeders who send their mares to him, and also the huge legion of fans he gained during his glittering career. In fact, there have been over 10,000 visitors to the farm since Pharoah came to Ashford in 2015.
“Horses like him don’t come along very often, and it is a privilege for us to be able to give his fans a glimpse into the life he now leads as a stallion through the tours,” Ryan said. “Having him here has also helped raise a lot of money for both human and equine charities, which is fantastic.”
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