American Pharoah has already wrapped up Horse of the Year honors, but a couple more strong wins would improve his ranking among the all-time greats.
Secretariat is the consensus greatest horse of the 20th century after he set track records in all three races in 1973. “Big Red” won the Belmont by 31 lengths. American Pharoah’s winning Belmont time would have still seen him 10 lengths behind Secretariat.
Citation (1948) became racing’s first millionaire with 32 career wins and was the benchmark of greatness until Secretariat.
Count Fleet (1943) won 16 of 21 races, with four second-place finishes and a third. Critics claiming World War II travel restrictions kept the best from competing against Count Fleet have a weak argument. The nation’s leading stables were largely in New York, Maryland and Kentucky anyway.
Seattle Slew (1977) followed Secretariat as the second of three Triple Crown champions in the “Decade of Champions.” Comparisons to Secretariat tainted Seattle Slew’s legacy slightly, but he was unbeaten through the Triple Crown and defeated Affirmed in a race that featured the first ever matchup of Triple Crown winners.
Affirmed (1978) might have been the toughest of the champions, beating Alydar in three closely run races. Affirmed’s total margin of victory in the Triple Crown races was three-fourths of a length. It was racing’s version of Ali-Frazier, with Affirmed winning seven of 10 career meetings.
And now comes American Pharoah, who is decidedly better than crown winners Whirlaway, Assault, War Admiral, Omaha, Gallant Fox and Sir Barton. After losing his debut race, American Pharoah has won seven straight for $4.53 million. Perhaps the most impressive of American Pharoah’s victories was the Preakness. Amid a thunderstorm so intense it was hard to see the starting gate from the finish line, American Pharoah ran away to a seven-lengths victory. His stretch runs in the Derby and Belmont were equally impressive.
American Pharoah is considered a blend of Seattle Slew’s toughness and Affirmed’s confidence. If he wins his remaining starts, American Pharoah could finish ahead of both of those horses, as well as Count Fleet, to finish behind only Secretariat and Citation among the immortals.
Not a bad way to end a 37-year Triple Crown drought.
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