Before American Pharoah went on to win the Triple Crown, I was about as jaded as a racing fan can be. Some were saying that a Triple Crown champion could revive the sport. No way, I replied. It’s too far gone. Others opined that the Triple Crown should be changed to make it easier. I thought this insane. The one thing the sport has going for it is the Triple Crown and its ultimate challenge. But then I went on to say the best thing for the sport is to have American Pharoah not win the Triple Crown. It would only build the expectation more for the next time the Crown was on the line.
As American Pharoah headed into the stretch with both the lead and the look of a Thoroughbred almost toying with the rest of the field, I knew that this time the Triple Crown would be won. And then something happened. I was emotionally transported to the man who introduced me to racing. And the magic of the Thoroughbred came rushing over me again like it used to many years ago. It felt like a transcendent moment. Because it was. It was emotional and it was spiritual.
I’m not sure why. But the excitement, the literal tingling of the spine as American Pharoah accelerated toward the wire, the massive crowd floating on the moment, the cheers with the tears. It was cleansing. It was pure. If you love Thoroughbreds, you do because there is a mystery and majesty to them. You entrust something very deep in your soul to them. A hope that an almost unimaginable dream can come true. There simply is nothing like having a horse and getting to know them. Then, one day, this horse jogs onto the track ready to race. Suddenly, he or she is not a number or a crazy name. He or she is someone you now know and is going to be laying it on the line for you. This changes you.
On Saturday, American Pharoah accomplished the unimaginable. Yes, he won the Triple Crown. But he also melted our hearts and gave us the very best type of humility in the presence of his greatness. Trainer Bob Baffert got it perfect, just after he shook the hand of Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, as he headed to the winner’s circle. He said not one word about his role, he said the horse won this. It was all the horse. He also got it so right when his first thought after the race was about his Dad, the man who got him involved in racing. Overcome by emotion, how he wished his Dad was there to share it with him. Maybe he was.