NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
History was made at the Belmont Stakes in Summer 2015 when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown title, the first racehorse to achieve the momentous feat since Affirmed in 1978. Pharoah was the crowd favorite, as spectators had anxiously anticipated the American Thoroughbred's victory, already a proven winner at the year's earlier Kentucky Derby and Preakness races.
By all appearances, American Pharoah has led a successful career, unmarred by any controversy as he was the undisputed champion-only twelve horses total in American history have won the Triple Crown. Unfortunately however, his training team has not fared nearly as well.
With accusations ranging from sour business transactions to poor gambling practices to active litigation with bankruptcy courts and other legal cases pending, his owner Ahmed Zayat has many rooting against him. The flamboyant Egyptian-American businessman has been leading a double-life that has threatened to overwhelm his small empire. Victor Espinoza, the famed racehorse's relentless jockey, left rural Mexico only to face harsh conditions on a farm where he had to overcome his fear of horses before learning that he had a gift for race riding. Finally, Bob Baffert, American Pharoah's trainer, has an interesting arc that includes tremendous wins, personal losses, and controversial medication violations.
Beginning with American Pharoah's modest showing at his first maiden race in 2014, New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape recounts the winning thoroughbred's explosive racing career by weaving in details of Zayat's questionable business practices, Espinoza's heartbreaking loss with California Chrome last year, and Baffert's temperamental, unreliable track record. By interviewing the parties involved and taking readers behind the scenes of the making of America's latest Triple Crown winner, Drape unfurls a tale "that transcends athletics, a story of adolescence and small-town life" (Publishers Weekly), and all the corruption, illegal gambling, and secretive business practices that can flourish in the shadows of greatness.
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About the Author
Joe Drape is an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times. A native of Kansas City and graduate of Rockhurst High School, Drape earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Southern Methodist University. After reporting for numerous local papers and winning awards, Joe came to the New York Times in 1998 to cover college sports and horse racing.
A New York Times bestselling author, Drape's work has been honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editor. He is a two-time Eclipse Award winner for outstanding coverage in thoroughbred racing. He lives in New York City with his wife, Mary Kennedy, and son, Jack.
Table of Contents
Authors Note ix
1 A Brief Encounter 1
2 Groundhog Day 12
3 The "Get-Out" Horse 28
4 Get Him Out of Here 52
5 A Long Summer 62
6 Blinkers On; Blinkers Off 76
7 A Rocket Ship! 91
8 Two Turns? 106
9 Better Lucky Than Smart 115
10 He's Ready 131
11 Barn 33 143
12 The First Saturday in May 164
13 Old Hilltop 178
14 The Sport without a Star Is Not a Sport 193
15 Test of a Champion 206
16 The Victory Lap 224
17 The Graveyard of Champions 235
18 California Dreaming 245
19 The Last Waltz 250
Glossary of Horse Racing Terms 261
Appendix A The Pedigree of American Pharoah 266
Appendix B The official chart for the 2015 Kentucky Derby 267
Appendix C The official chart for the 2015 Preakness Stakes 269
Appendix D The official chart for the 2015 Belmont Stakes 270
Appendix E The official chart for the 2015 Breeders' Cup Classic 271
Appendix F American Pharoah's Lifetime Past Performances 272
Appendix G American Pharoah's Lifetime Workouts 273
Notes on Sources and Selected Bibliography 275
Photo Credits 279
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When American Pharoah became the 12th winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown – winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year – he became a favorite of seasoned and casual racing fans alike. By becoming the first Triple Crown horse in 37 years, he was also a media darling. His story, along with that of his owner, trainer and jockey, is the story of this excellent book by sportswriter Joe Drape, who covers horse racing for the New York Times. Like most books on a horse, the story centers not only around the animal, but also on important humans in the horse’s life. In the case of American Pharoah, this included owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza. All three, as well as many others, sing the praises of the horse for not only his racing ability but for his strength and beauty as well. There are even some stories about others who had an important role in the upkeep and training of American Pharoah. One such person is Frances Relihan, who was the farm manager where the horse spent the first year of his life. It was a touching moment when Zayat invited Frances and her husband to attend the 2015 Kentucky Derby. The reader will even learn about American Pharoah’s personality. He loves it when the cameras are rolling on him, he has pride in his gallop and he will even mingle with fans. Often in the book, Drape will talk about him eating carrots out of the hands of fans, especially children. This was a nice touch for the book as it made the reader feel like he or she is part of the horse’s story. The book talks at length about the horse racing industry. No matter how much the reader knows about the sport, it is a good bet that reader will learn something new. Starting with the breeding ritual that created American Pharoah and continuing through his career, the reader learns much about the breeding and training aspects of the industry. This isn’t all rosy, however, as Drape also talks about the doping that occurs as well and some of the more tragic consequences. Instead of criticizing the sport for this, Drape presents it in a manner that states it is simply a part of the industry and that not all horses, including American Pharoah, are part of this culture. The narration by Arron Abono was very good as well, even sounding as excited as the race track announcers when reciting their stretch calls during each of the Triple Crown races. The book is recommended for anyone with an interest in the sport or learning more about this legendary horse.
Omg i love this book.
Like horse racing or not, this book highlights arguably the best horse that ever lived.