OK, So He Lost …
Sometimes we are remembered more for what we didn’t do, than what we did.
If we do something remarkable, historic even, then fall short later sometimes there are better stories to tell. Debates begin. Legend and lore grows. This is racing. Who doesn’t love a really good “bad beat” story?
American Pharoah lost the Travers last Saturday and the racing community exhaled in defeat together. I was one of them. I was disappointed and sad and sick to my stomach for a day or two. Then late Sunday afternoon I was washed over with a burst of clarity.
Big bleeping whoop.
He lost. So what?
He is only three. Saratoga is over a hundred and fifty. The old girl and her ghosts did it again and showed us who is in charge. It ain’t us humans. Never was and it never will be. It’s the racing gods.
If you take a couple of minutes and watch that race again you will see in defeat how good American Pharoah is. You’ll see how good Keen Ice was, too. Really good in fact and Javier Castellano is a ridiculously talented rider. But watch the big horse closely.
Watch him get challenged by an aggressive, and equally impressive, ride by Jose Lezcano.
Frosted and Lezcano did exactly what they were supposed to do. Race! He HAD to challenge AP and Victor Espinoza. Had to. If he didn’t and let him out on his own, they never would have caught the champ. But they run these races to win them, not so others can keep grabbing headlines.
In mid-June American Pharoah forever etched his name in racing immortality. One of only 12 Triple Crown champions. For the first time in 37 years a three year old thoroughbred was able to best the grueling schedule of three races in such a short period of time. He did it in style, he did it with class and he did it to the loudest roar of a horse racing crowd, likely, ever. The screams of joy that echoed through Elmont, NY that day continued long after he crossed the wire and it was magnificent.
He wheeled back and took the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park with the greatest of ease.
In 27 days and two trips across the country we asked him to impress us again. To dazzle us. To show us no one can touch him. Challenge him? Yeah, you can try. He will simply turn them away. Go be that amazing horse the country is so excited about. “Do it again, man,” the country cried to him. We can’t get enough.
I was one of them. Unabashedly thrilled to hear the Travers and #Pharoahtoga were one.
But we asked too much. I asked too much. The Zayats and Bob Baffert gave the people what they wanted. They couldn’t have been more gracious. They couldn’t have been more generous. The big horse in the MidSummer Derby. wow. it’s happening. Curses and ghosts of favored past champions, may you all be damned. THIS is American Pharoah.
But history doesn’t like to be challenged. At the very least, not at Saratoga Race Course.
But here is the thing. I would make an argument that he further solidified his legendary status by not winning.
His Triple Crown victory sets him apart from every other crop in 37 years. But this? Well, this makes him even more renowned in racing’s history books.
Man o’ War lost here. The only place he ever lost. Gallant Fox lost here in the Travers, to a 100-1 shot. Secretariat, the first horse in 25 years to win a Triple Crown back in ’73 lost here to a relative unknown named Onion. Affirmed, another Triple Crown winner crossed the wire first, then was disqualified in the Travers. These were amazing racehorses. Some of the best to ever put a hoof on the track. Every single one of them lost.
Now we add his name and I can’t help but think…
… what a privilege it must be for those legends to be in the same company as American Pharoah.
# # #
Posted on August 31, 2015, in American Pharoah, Midsummer Derby, NYRA, Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs NY, Travers Stakes and tagged American Pharoah, Bob Baffert, Jose Lezcano, Keen Ice, Travers Stakes, Victor Espinoza, Zayat Stables. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.