Repurcussions of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown campaign seen at Oaks and Derby a year later


Horses racing during the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 7, 2016 in Louisville, Ky.

Anthony Crawford

Prior to last year, the drought of a Triple Crown winner had entered it’s 37th straight year. The failure of a horse to accomplish one of the premier feats in the world of sports — securing wins at the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes — led to it resembling more of a myth than of an actual attainable goal.

The title is one of the few in sports that isn’t guaranteed — like an NCAA Championship or Super Bowl that has a winner every year — and its difficulty can best be described with the 13 horses that came close winning two of the legs before ultimately falling short of glory.

Luckily for the horse racing industry and fans, American Pharoah ended the drought last year. The now retired stallion resides on a peaceful horse farm where he will spend the rest of his days living the good life, but his name rests in history as it restored the magic back in horse racing.

Horse racing as a whole was never in jeopardy. Churchill Downs was always going to effortlessly play host to over 100,000 finely dressed ladies and gentlemen ready to indulge themselves with mint juleps as they hoped to not fall to far into the hole with their betting. But the horse racing community had lacked that something that extended it from just being a race, rather than a chase for history.

37 years is a long time without a Triple Crown winner and plenty enough time for the achievement to become one that is looked at as unattainable.

It’s in the nature of sports for people to want to cheer for the underdog, that’s why in horse racing you see many people bet on the long shots, with the favorable betting odds also helping.

American Pharoah was in no way an underdog, entering as the favorite in all three races, but he did play a role that made it easy for people to cheer for. What’s easier to cheer for than an upset — someone going up against history.

A year later the effects of the drought-ending campaign can now be seen. The numbers show an increase in both betting and television ratings and those are just the measurable metrics. The now historic horse also reaffirmed people’s belief that the heights of the Triple Crown can be reached.

The proof was also on display as the Kentucky Oaks drew a record-setting crowd of 124,589. The 2016 edition of the Kentucky Derby would have also broken the attendance record with a crowd of 167,227 had it not been for American Pharoah’s own Derby that set the record with over 170,000.

American Pharoah’s run is not an easy one to forget, and while his name may be overlooked momentarily in favor of this year’s Derby winner Nyquist, the horse racing industry will continue to benefit from the repercussion of his Triple Crown crusade.