If the Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 7 has you nostalgic for American Pharoah, Joe Drape has the antidote.
The New York Times sportswriter and Eclipse Award winner for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing is off and running with the new “American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise” (Hachette Books, 292 pages, $27). Though it may lack the juiciness, pathos and laugh-out-loud humor of “Duel for the Crown: Affirmed, Alydar, and Racing’s Greatest Rivalry,” it, too, is a great story well-told with a fabulous cast of characters supporting our innocent, noble hero, AP, on his equine Pilgrim’s Progress.
Like many good stories nowadays, there’s a spicy sex scene to draw you in, the by-now-de-rigueur horsey porn, this time between Pharoah’s dad, PioneerOf the Nile (described as a “gentle giant” though something of a prima donna in the equine bedroom, requiring lots of foreplay) and AP’s coolly confident, queenly mom, Littleprincessemma, a favorite of Pharoah owner Ahmed Zayat and named for his daughter, Emma. The result of the quick, explosive tryst that opens the book is a once-in-a-lifetime horse – fast, fierce, elegant and versatile on the track; kind and sweet off it.
In telling this classic hero’s tale, Drape also educates us about the horseracing world with a glossary of terms, appendices on the Pharoah’s lineage and races and a select bibliography.
Plus, as a Thoroughbred racing reporter, Drape has all the right instincts, noting, for instance, that the name American Pharoah sounds like that of a champion. (As opposed to Smarty Jones, Drape writes, who lost his bid for the Triple Crown when he finished second in the Belmont Stakes in 2004.)
As you root Saturday for a potential Triple Crown winner to emerge from another field of hopefuls, grab a copy of “American Pharoah” to honor a truly unique athlete – who now spends his days playing in the paddock of Ashford Stud, breeding and greeting visitors, all with the aplomb of the professional he is. (Already he has a foal in the making via the mare Untouched Talent. Way to go, AP.)
“We’ll never have another son of a bitch like this,” Drape quotes AP trainer Bob Baffert as saying to jockey Victor Espinoza as they closed out the Crown.
Ah, but we’ll always have Drape’s book.