American Pharoah was a highly regarded racehorse even before he won the Triple Crown in 2015. His outstanding performances in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Frontrunner Stakes (G1) in 2014 were enough to net him the Eclipse Award for Champion Two-Year Old Colt, even without having run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
A deep bruise on his left, front hoof was discovered after a workout on October 27, warranting the colt’s scratch from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and keeping him out of the races for the rest of the year. While Texas Red won the Juvenile and talented colts like Dortmund, Frosted, and Carpe Diem were making a name for themselves in graded stakes races across the country, American Pharoah was being outfitted with a special shoe and taking time off to heal.
American Pharoah’s return in the Rebel Stakes (G2) was highly anticipated. Horse racing fans were eager to see if this big, bay colt still possessed the knack for winning that he did the previous year.
[Video: Watch American Pharoah workout for the Rebel Stakes]
Rain beat down upon Oaklawn Park that day, leaving the track sloppy. The son of Pioneerof The Nile had never raced on a sloppy racetrack and had yet to run outside of California. That did not deter the bettors away from American Pharaoh; they made him the heavy favorite in a field of seven.
All of Oaklawn Park was still as the horses loaded into the starting gates. The crowd knew that they were about to witness something good, but they had no idea of knowing that they were about to see history in the making. The bell rang, the starting gates opened, and the horses leapt forward.
All but two horses broke well - Tizwonderfulcreek hopped into the air and American Pharoah stumbled. He picked himself back up and bounded towards the lead, getting there with ease to set a moderate pace. The colt glided over the mud, absolutely enjoying himself as they went down the backstretch.
To American Pharoah, this race was nothing more than a chance for him to play in the mud. He easily won the race by 6 ¼ lengths, even while carrying top weight of 119 pounds.
To make the victory even more impressive, American Pharoah had run the race with a twisted shoe due to the stumble at the break. It was in that moment that the entire horse racing community could see that this colt was truly a monster.
"I don't think it was too easy for him," trainer Bob Baffert told BloodHorse. "The track was very demanding. We learned a lot from this race because he handled it well, he handled the shipping and he handled the off track. I think he got a lot out of it."
We all, of course, know how the rest of the story goes. American Pharoah would return to Oaklawn Park to win the Arkansas Derby (G1) before breaking the sport’s thirty-seven year Triple Crown drought with victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. He would round out his career was a victory in the Haskell Invitational (G1), a narrow loss in the Travers Stakes (G1), and a romp in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) that made him the first horse to win both the Classic and the Triple Crown.
Today, American Pharoah resides at the prestigious Ashford Stud (Coolmore America) in Versailles, KY. He is far from where he romped in the Rebel, but that memory lives on. It is a memory that will be re-lived each time this race is run, as it is impossible to forget a horse as life changing as American Pharoah.
The 2020 Rebel Stakes (G2) will be run on March 14th and will award 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner.
[Video: Watch American Pharoah (#4) win the Rebel Stakes]
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