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The Pharoah’s Final Reign

The Pharoah’s Final Reign

Photo courtesy of Diana Robinson via Flickr

Triple Crown hero American Pharoah will face stiff competition in his final career race: the Breeders’ Cup Classic

American Pharoah dominated the sports headlines this June when he won the Belmont Stakes impressively to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown. Winning the Triple Crown — consisting of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes — is considered to be the ultimate accomplishment in horse racing. Yet it had only been won 11 times before Pharoah came along this year. He won all three races emphatically, completing the sweep with the fastest Belmont Stakes in 14 years.

Since his historic accomplishment, American Pharoah has run twice: winning the prestigious Haskell Invitational Stakes in New Jersey in early August, before suffering a shocking upset in the historic Travers Stakes at Saratoga in New York. Pharoah ran second to Keen Ice, who he had beaten several times already on the year. Now, American Pharoah will run one last time before retirement in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 31.

Known as the all-star game of horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup series has been featuring the best of the best in each division of racing since 1984. No Triple Crown winner has ever run in the Cup, because the last horse to win it before Pharoah was Affirmed in 1978 — six years before the Breeders’ Cup was inaugurated.

American Pharoah has a chance to make history as the first horse to win both the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a feat that would solidify his spot among the greatest racehorses in history. However, it won’t be an easy task, as this classic field is shaping up as one of the toughest in the race’s history.


Perhaps Pharoah’s most notable competitor is Beholder. As a five-year-old mare (an older female horse), Beholder made headlines by defeating male horses in the important Pacific Classic Stakes in California in August. She was the first mare in the race’s 24-year history to win. In addition to that race, her resume includes four big stakes wins versus fellow mares. Only one mare has ever won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Zenyatta in 2009), and Beholder will seek to add her name to that short list.


Among the older male horses, Honor Code appears to be American Pharoah’s toughest opponent. Honor Code is known for a distinctive running style, in which he starts off far behind the leaders, and makes one big rally at the end to win. He’s won three races coming from way back, including the super-prestigious Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park, and the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. He’ll look to make another big rally in the Classic.


Frosted is best-known for finishing second to American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes. With Pharoah out of the way, Frosted has won two stakes races: the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, and the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing in Philadelphia. He was a close third in the Travers Stakes, battling with American Pharoah all the way around the track before giving way late (Keen Ice, who won the Travers Stakes, is also Classic-bound). Frosted will seek his revenge on Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Last year, California Chrome was gunning for the Triple Crown, but was upset by Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes. While Chrome has been sidelined (and is expected to return in 2016), Tonalist has continued to chug along, winning the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup in his last race, and the Westchester Stakes at Belmont earlier in the year. Tonalist finished second to Honor Code in the Metropolitan Mile and third to him at the Whitney Stakes. A Classic win would add to an already hefty resume.


The evidence is clear: American Pharoah will have far from an easy task in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It will be a strong test of his ability as he goes up against some of the best in the country. But one thing is for sure: if he pulls it off, he will have cemented his place as an all-time great.

You can watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic on NBC (channel 11 on Loyola cable) at 5:35 p.m. on October 31. The remaining Breeders’ Cup races will be on NBC Sports (channel 52), from noon to 5 p.m. Check out for more information on the racing.


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The Pharoah’s Final Reign