In 2002, I watched the Kentucky Derby for the first time and fell in love with a lean, mean, jet-black horse. Trained by Bob Baffert and with Victor Espinoza on his back, War Emblem swept the first two jewels of the Triple Crown like his feet were on fire. I was so invested in him that it hurt. After he lost the Belmont, my dad found me curled up under a blanket, sobbing that I would “never see a Triple Crown winner.”
Thirteen years and countless heartbreaks later, a strong, kind, transcendent animal, raw bay but for a kiss of white on his forehead, labored to win the Derby despite a long layoff and two preps. Trained by Bob Baffert and with Victor Espinoza on his back, this horse ran through the Triple Crown like he couldn’t believe it was his job, littering track after track with a circuit of perfect hoof prints. His first head-to-head challenge and a torrential downpour couldn’t stop him. And today, with ears forward and in some the fastest final fractions in Belmont history, he devoured the race that claimed thirteen challengers before him.
The 12th Triple Crown winner is named American Pharoah, and he is beautiful. He is perfect.
I am happy. I am happy for the horse, I am happy for me, I am happy for the fans, I am happy for the connections. I am happy for my sport, a sport that does not often truly get to be happy. Today is our day. Yes, yes, yes.