Sometimes, a brief comment can trigger a deluge of thoughts and images, and such was the case when Bob Baffert said of American Pharoah at the Longines World's Best Racehorse Award Jan. 19 in London, “He showed the beauty of racing.”
It was an innocent comment, but it struck a chord. And that is why you will read the word beauty repeatedly throughout this column. That is who and what American Pharoah was all about.
I have written numerous columns about American Pharoah and recaps of his Triple Crown victories, as have dozens of other racing writers. We have all attempted throughout the year to pinpoint just what it was that made this extraordinary colt so special – his brilliance, the fluidity of his magnificent stride, his machine-like qualities, his amiable and often times affectionate personality, his historic sweep of the Triple Crown and completing the first ever Grand Slam of racing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his amazing marketability, and his overall allure that made him one of the most popular horses of all time. If ever a horse was born to make history and become an iconic figure it was American Pharoah.
But all in all, when you really think about it, what will endure forever is the legacy that Baffert bestowed upon him with just a few words – he showed the beauty of racing. Not his own beauty in the sense of a Secretariat, but a beauty of the spirit that was felt more than it was seen. American Pharoah’s beauty was reflected in the many pilgrimages from all over the world just to see him, or more so to feel him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting.”
And people did not lose the opportunity to “see” the beauty of American Pharoah, whether it was driving hundreds of miles or flying from all parts of the country to watch him race or journeying half way around the world from as far away as Australia just to photograph him. One cannot help but see beauty in the hordes of star struck fans reaching out to touch him or the lucky ones who got to pet him or kiss him or feed him carrots or just have their picture taken with him. It was beauty that was written on their faces.
Was the true beauty of the Belmont Stakes the vision of American Pharoah storming down the stretch and into history or the joyous pandemonium that broke out all over Belmont Park and in the homes of millions across the country? It was a moment of pure unadulterated euphoria that had been building up for 37 years. I believe it was that scene, played out on such a grand scale, which best depicted the beauty of American Pharoah and the beauty of racing..
Was the true beauty of the hundreds of thousands of photographs taken of American Pharoah the images themselves – whether action shots, head shots, or tender moments --or the looks on the faces of the photographers as they realized they had captured this equine giant in all his magnificence for posterity and the joy those photos brought to so many people.
These are just some of the scenes that portrayed the beauty for which American Pharoah will be remembered and the beauty he brought to the Sport of Kings.
Beauty also was the volumes of eloquent and passionate words written about him, both professionally or in letters and poems and blogs. I refer to another literary giant, Edgar Allen Poe, who said, “I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.” Even Poe knew that true beauty is felt more than seen.
So, thanks to Baffert, we have unlocked the one word that best describes this equine phenomenon.
Physical beauty, as we know it, in most cases diminishes over the years. Even the most beautiful racehorses become swayback and lose that near-perfect conformation and glistening, dappled coat. But the transcendental beauty that was American Pharoah will retain its artistry and elegance for all time.