Only fitting a Pharoah reigns supreme in the Sport of Kings


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

Jun 6, 2015; Elmont, NY, USA; Victor Espinoza aboard American Pharoah (5) celebrates after winning the 2015 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Horse racing is known by many nicknames, among them, the Sport of Kings. It is only appropriate that the sport’s latest ruler dons a royal name.

This past Sunday, American Pharoah’s name was etched into the record books, becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza ultimately made mincemeat of the competition at Belmont Park in New York and made history for horse racing and sports.

A lot of today’s sports fans were not even alive the last time the Triple Crown was won. In fact, before the 1980s, for a horse to win the Triple Crown was such a common occurrence that the reason it would have made major headline news would have been because horse racing’s stature was much bigger in the past.

It may not be so now and if Pharoah’s win will be a catalyst for a whole new “breed” of equine aficionados is yet to be certain. But we cannot deny that history has been made because it has.

Once again, Realists, I will be the first one to admit that I was just as skeptical of Pharoah’s chances of finishing first at the Belmont just as I was every other horse that had a shot at the Triple Crown in recent memory.

I was skeptical of Funny Cide—who could not get the job done. I was skeptical of Smarty Jones—who could not get the job done although coming very close before losing to Birdstone.

I was skeptical of Barbaro even before the tragedy that befell that horse at the Belmont. I do not even remember the year Barbaro went for the Triple Crown or who won the Belmont that year. I do remember the sad image of him pulling up lame and not even being able to race. It was one of the saddest scenes I have seen in my years watching sports.

I was skeptical of Big Brown—who could not get the job done. Last year, despite virtually everyone on social media identifying themselves as a “Chromie” I was skeptical of California Chrome and then could not believe that his owner ultimately made a fool out of himself after Chrome was denied the Triple Crown.

Then again, why not? These are, after all, horse owners who have a lot of money. When you have a lot of money, you have a big ego.

Yes, I was skeptical of Pharoah because every horse after affirmed that went for the win at the Belmont had its hopes at history dashed in a New York minute. It is one thing to win at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. It is another thing to win the Preakness at Pimlico. Belmont’s one-and-a-half mile fast track is, literally, a horse of a different color.

But, Pharoah did it—and I was wrong. And, it is only fitting that the Triple Crown would be won by a horse with a royally misspelled name.

“Pharoah” is actually spelled “Pharaoh” but because of a misspelling on a fan name submission, “Pharaoh” became “Pharoah.”

His name is “American Pharoah” after all, so we should just adopt the spelling of the horse’s name as the official North American spelling of the word “Pharoah.”

After all, “Pharoah” will be worth a lot more money now than “Pharaoh” will ever be thanks to Mr. Espinoza and company. The win at the Belmont likely means that Pharoah will not race beyond 2015. The rights to the horse have already been acquired by a horse farm in Kentucky.

Just imagine the stud fees this horse is going to collect. Pharoah may have been worth as much as $50 million pre-Belmont. Post-Belmont, he could be worth anywhere in the ballpark of $100 million (otherwise known as a 35-year-old New York Yankee).

And plus, if anyone saw the brilliant feature NBC did on jockey Victor Espinoza prior to the post at 6:50 p.m. on Saturday evening, you had to be thinking the following:

Espinoza’s story as well as that of Pharoah’s are both Taylor-made for a Hollywood script. Espinoza may not have to be a jockey for another horse in his life if some genius in Hollywood, Culver City, or Burbank decides to turn his story into a made-for-theatres box office event.

And to see if this generation of fans will embrace horse racing thanks to Pharoah’s Triple Crown accomplishment, that of course will be seen via subscriptions to HRTV and TVG or increased wagers at horse races or going to tracks in states where that type of gambling is permitted.

All of this written, it is certainly something when history is made in sports. It is sometimes easy to be turned off by sports given all of the politics, money, cheating, and business that goes into it. Then, we see stuff like what happened on an early Saturday evening in New York and we remember once again why we love sports.

Plus, just for the record, it will now always be spelled “Pharoah.”

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