American Pharoah, the first horse in almost 40 years to win thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, ended his career in victory at the Breeders’ Cup by winning the Classic. Down the final straightaway, AP separated himself from the field and ended up finishing 6 ½ lengths ahead of the place finisher, Effinex.
This was the last race of an 11 race career. American Pharoah won nine of those races, including three of the toughest races a horse can run consecutively: the Triple Crown. Because these races are so much longer than any other race a three year old has run before at this point in their life, and they are so close together, many experts believed that no horse would ever win all three ever again. The last horse to do it had been Affirmed back in 1978. The way that the prize structures have changed since then, though, encouraged many owners to sit their horses out for the Preakness so that they’d be more rested for the Belmont Stakes. It’s far more profitable to do well at Kentucky and Belmont than to have a mediocre performance in the Preakness and at Belmont. However, American Pharoah completely erased this concern in his convincing victories in all three.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is considered the most prestigious race of the year. It isn’t limited to only three year olds like the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes are, so the quality of the competition is typically much tougher than the Triple Crown races. For American Pharoah to win this, despite being only three, says a lot about his ability. His owners’ decision to retire him after this race is probably more of a business decision than anything. Horses typically don’t hit their peak physical ability until they are four or five, but by retiring American Pharoah after such a convincing three year old season, they are increasing his worth when it comes to stud fees. While the world will never know just how good he could have been, the team behind him will now become even wealthier as they can charge a fortune to breed with him. From this standpoint, it’s a very smart choice.
Betting on thoroughbred racing is completely legal throughout most of the United States because it is based on a pari-mutuel system and does not have the same likelihood of corruption that other types of gambling have. Also, horse betting is highly dependent upon the skill of the bettor, which makes it more of a game of skill rather than a game of chance. It’s certainly not easy to be successful at, but it is still a skill nonetheless. Because of this legal definition, there is not a daily fantasy sports scene for horse racing, although on big days like the Breeders’ Cup, it could technically be created. For now, going through a site like Off Track Betting is your only choice if you enjoy handicapping these events.
American Pharoah will go down in history as one of the top five greatest horses of all time. With some horse, such as Secretariat, did not ever have the opportunity to race in a huge event like the Breeders’ Cup as it didn’t begin until 1984. But the fact that American Pharoah won all four races in a single year is a huge testament to just how good he is. No other horse has ever done anything quite like it, including Secretariat. Even if we all need to wait another 37 years for something this exciting to happen in horse racing again, the wait will likely be well worth the anticipation.