Congrats to American Pharoah – and yes, it is spelled the wrong way – for winning a thrilling 141st Kentucky Derby, coming down the stretch to overtake Dortmund, the third place finisher, and hold off Firing Line, who finished second.
It was the third Derby win and second in a row for jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode beloved California Chrome last year; the fourth win for trainer Bob Baffert; and the first win in four attempts for Egyptian-born owner Ahmed Zayat, who said he has no fears for the Preakness, which will be run May 16 at Pimilco in troubled Baltimore.
With the first leg of the Triple Crown concluded, the other race begins – the one that has for 37 years has been defined by dashed hopes. Can American Pharoah do what no horse has done since Affirmed in 1978 and win the Triple Crown? His talent says yes and history says no, the experts say.
I say it’s such a pharaonic challenge as to be both an irresistible dream – and subject. (“Criterion,” the planned third novel in my series “The Games Men Play,” is told in part from the viewpoint of the title racehorse, who’s trying to win the Triple Crown.)
Part of the fun of Derby Day is, of course, the fashion, and not just at Churchill Downs. In my guise as editor of WAG magazine, I was among the judges (with WVOX Radio’s John Marino and jockey Tyler Buter) of the Derby Hat Contest at Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. (Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue covergirl Hannah Davis was also on hand, awarding a special prize to 86-year-old Jennette Waiters, who looked lovely in a blue brocade topper.)
Hats off to the 75 fanciful participants and especially the winners, who included Lisa Singleton, Cruv Cubales and Lee Kulsha. My favorite hats were those like Kulsha’s that saluted the Derby with red roses, greenery, mint juleps and racetrack brims.
Proving there’s nothing quite as thrilling as creativity and its expression.