This writer was going through her little girl horse phase when Steve Cauthen got Affirmed past Alydar in 1978 in all three of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown (the 1978 Belmont was definitely the best race of the last four Triple Crown finales. Secretariat’s 1973 blowout doesn’t count. No one was going to catch him.)
It’s been a long 37 years. In that time, nineteen horses have won two, but did not get all three wins. Not until American Pharoah. Forty years after Bold Ruler’s most famous son, Secretariat, won the Triple Crown under Ron Turcotte, their descendant American Pharoah did the same. Other Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont winners in his pedigree include Northern Dancer, Unbridled, and Empire Maker. Bold Ruler can be found 5-6 generations back on both sides. That might partially explain how this exceptional horse managed to beat a rested field.
All week headlines doubted that it would happen. However, one person predicted the outcome just as it happened.
“There’s probably only a couple horses – Materiality is one – that may be able to make sure that the pace is honest,” says [Steve] Cauthen, [the last jockey to win the Triple Crown atop Affirmed]. “Frosted is the one who’ll probably be finishing the best. What it really amounts to, whether (American Pharoah) is in the lead or sitting second or third, is as long as he’s relaxed and finishes, and he can get a mile and a half, he’ll win. Simple as that. It probably doesn’t matter what most of the horses do. It will be insignificant to him.”
Cauthen watched this one from the stands as did Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner. The new reigning Triple Crown jockey is Victor Espinoza who did so on his third try. Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer, won his first on his fourth try. After 37 years, the drought is over.