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American Pharoah wins first Triple Crown in 37 years

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American Pharoah wins first Triple Crown in 37 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Finally, a Triple Crown winner, and after 37 years of waiting, this one was never in doubt.

American Pharoah led all the way to win the Belmont Stakes by 5 ½ lengths on Saturday, becoming the first horse since 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — one of the sporting world's rarest feats.

"Wow! Wow!" jockey Victor Espinoza said moments after crossing the finish line. "I can only tell you it just an amazing thing."

The bay colt with the unusually short tail easily defeated seven rivals in the grueling 1 1/2-mile race, covering the distance in 2:26.65 — sixth-fastest in Belmont history — to end the longest stretch without a Triple Crown champion in history.

[SHOP: Buy Triple Crown gear]

"That little horse, he deserved it," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He's the one that did it. We were basically just passengers."

American Pharoah is the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win three races on different tracks at varying distances over a five-week span. He won the Derby by one length on May 2 and then romped to a seven-length victory in the rainy Preakness two weeks later before demolishing his rivals Saturday.

"I still can't believe it happened," said Baffert, at 62 the second-oldest trainer of a Triple Crown winner.

Baffert and Espinoza ended their own frustrating histories in the Triple Crown. Baffert finally won on his record fourth Triple try, having lost in 1997, 1998 (by a nose) and in 2002. Espinoza got it done with his record third shot after failing to win in 2002 and last year on California Chrome.

"I was prepared for somebody coming because I've been through this so many times," Baffert said.

Nobody did.

Espinoza hustled American Pharoah to the lead leaving the No. 5 post and quickly got him over to the rail. Materiality was on his outside in second, but never applied any serious pressure traveling on the backstretch before falling away on the second turn.

American Pharoah started kicking away heading into the stretch turn. He opened up on the field as he powered down the stretch, displaying his fluid, springloaded stride in which he appears to float over the ground.

"It's just an amazing feeling that you have when you're 20 yards from the wire," Espinoza said. "And then at the wire I was like, 'I cannot believe I did it.'"

American Pharoah ran the final quarter-mile — a stretch that has dashed numerous Triple Crown dreams — in 24.32 seconds, faster than Secretariat's time of 25 seconds in winning the 1973 Belmont.

After making his way back, Espinoza took American Pharoah nearly the length of the sprawling grandstand so the fans could pay their respects to the champion.

As the horses were heading to the starting gate, owner Ahmed Zayat was overflowing with confidence and turned to his wife.

"I told her, 'Get ready to be the owner of the 12th Triple Crown winner," he said.

Sent off as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite, American Pharoah paid $3.50, $2.80 and $2.50.

Frosted returned $3.50 and $2.90, while Keen Ice was another two lengths back in third and paid $4.60 to show.

Mubtaahij was fourth, followed by Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality.

American Pharoah delivered a victory for the Egyptian-born Zayat, who bred the colt and put him up for sale before buying him back for $300,000. His name came courtesy of the family's online contest, in which a woman from Missouri submitted the winning moniker, but the misspelling — it should be pharaoh — wasn't noticed until the name was already official.

"I can't believe it happened," said Justin Zayat, racing manager for his father's stable. "It's amazing. Oh my God."

American Pharoah joined the exclusive club of Triple Crown winners Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed.

High School Lites Football Roundup Week 9

High School Lites Football Roundup Week 9

High School Lites is back with an exciting Week 9 full of thrilling matchups. NBC Sports Chicago has the highlights of some of the top matchups from Friday's games.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights.


DRIVE: Batavia (episode 9)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Oak Forest football

VIEWERS' CHOICE GAMES OF THE WEEK: Fremd runs past Schaumburg

WINTRUST ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame running back Ty Gavin

FRIDAY'S TOP 25 SCORES

(1) Lincoln-Way East 31, (16) Bolingbrook 0

(2) Batavia 24, Wheaton North 13

(3) Brother Rice 31, (17) Montini 0

(4) Marist 24, Benet 7

(6) Homewood-Flossmoor 56, Sandburg 0

(7) Cary-Grove 55, (15) Naperville Central 41

(9) Nazareth Academy 42, Marian Catholic 6

(10) Maine South 48, Niles West 6

(11) Oswego 22, Plainfield South 15

(12) Richards 41, Eisenhower 6

(13) Phillips 41, Raby 0

(14) Willowbrook 42, Downers South 20

(18) Oak Park-River Forest 48, Lyons 0

(19) Warren 43, Mundelein 7

(20) Glenbard West 35, Proviso West 6

(21) Hillcrest 43, Bremen 6

Joliet Catholic 33, (22) Notre Dame 17

(23) Hinsdale Central 21, Hinsdale South 12

(24) Rolling Meadows 34, Buffalo Grove 7

Wheaton Warrenville South 13, (25) St. Charles North 11

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Payton 43, Kenwood 42

Coal City 43, Lisle 14

Huntley 55, Dundee-Crown 12

Perspectives 32, Solorio 16

SATURDAY'S TOP 25 GAMES

Fenwick vs. (5) Mount Carmel 

(8) Simeon vs. Curie

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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