The first Triple Crown win in 37 years took place at this year’s Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Downtown witnessed history as American Pharoah, ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza, claimed his spot as the 12th horse to achieve the challenging win in the three race series.
The Belmont Stakes was a fashionable affair as women in classic sundresses and sun hats and men in three piece suits and bowties lined every section of Belmont Park, even in the more casually dressed General Admission area. Those in the required dress code box and clubhouse areas went the extra mile to dress to the nines.
Lines for betting windows were chaotic; even worse were the lines for ATM machines as first timers dejectedly realized that betting and most vendors were cash only. But that didn’t seem to be stopping the prevailing feelings of hope, optimism, and good will that pervaded the crowd. Everyone wanted American Pharaoh to come in first. Everyone was hopeful that they would see history. Everyone was sharing excitement with those around them.
After several earlier races, it was finally time for the main events. The Goo Goo Dolls played a set of three songs to cheers on all levels of the park. And then later still, the horses trotted out. Perhaps intentionally, American Pharoah was the last on the track. When he came out, the volume of cheers seemed impossibly loud. Screams were heard from all angles. Random strangers were exchanging phone numbers to text each other the pictures they got. Alcohol and cigars pervaded the air.
But the cheers before the race couldn’t compare to what happened during and immediately after. Within the first leg of the race, American Pharoah had pushed himself to the front of the pack. “Go, go, go!” people shouted between cheers of “Yay!” and “Come on Pharaoh, Come on AP!” It seemed as if the crowd was too caught up in excitement to really let the disbelief of what they were witnessing set in for a few seconds. Not only did American Pharaoh win, he won while out in front almost the entire time. He had the second best time at the Belmont Stakes in Triple Crown winner history, 26.65 seconds.
Those random strangers exchanging pictures were now hugging. Champagne was flying through the air. “Oh my god!” was now the mantra everyone was repeating. There wasn’t a person near this contributor who didn’t have an excited smile plastered on their face. Some had tears in their eyes. You could feel the wave of electric energy at all levels. History was made.
-by Alyssa Bajek