byTori Repole| May 8, 2017
Last Saturday, Always Dreaming thundered across the finish line ahead of the pack at the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville. As with every year, talk of another Triple Crown winner is already looming large, and all eyes will be on Always Dreaming as he takes on the Preakness Stakes in two weeks time. But for now, in addition to the rumblings of whether or not we’re watching the next Triple Crown Winner, there is also the question: Could this be the next American Pharoah?
Two years earlier, the world watched Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah load into the starting gate at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/4 mile dirt track had endured the hoofbeats of many before him who boasted the same level of ability and promise, but to those who knew him best, there was something special about the 16.1 colt who’d been assigned a name with an inconsequential spelling error.
Two years and a couple hundred pounds later, American Pharoah the stallion lives knee-deep in bedding at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud, the 2,000-acre property in Lexington, Kentucky.
Behind the scenes, there were already whispers that he just might be the one to capture the Crown that had eluded the horse racing industry for 37 years. On June 6th, exactly five weeks after he won the Derby and three weeks after winning the Preakness, Pharoah made his mark on the 1 1/2 mile dirt track at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, passing “The Test of Champions” to join the ranks of 11 Triple Crown winners before him. The rest, as you know, is history.
Two years and a couple hundred pounds later, American Pharoah the stallion lives knee-deep in bedding at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud, the 2,000-acre property in Lexington, Kentucky. On the morning of Tuesday, May 2nd, Pharoah can be found relaxing in the center of his stall moments before head groom, Rodolfo Gomez, brings him out for our exclusive shoot.
“He’s a good horse and he’s very quiet. At the moment, I’ve never seen another horse like him,” says Gomez.
Quiet might be an understatement. When Pharoah is led out of his stall to the matted entrance of the Stallion barn, he takes the time to acknowledge his surroundings before posing for the camera, a gesture that he became known for during his racing days, and must now be second nature for a horse of his stature. As I snap away, he’s patient and doesn’t mind standing in the same place for long. But when moved nearer to a plot of grass, he helps himself to grazing in between shots.
For now, we can continue to appreciate the kind soul whose heart captured the spirit of horse racing at its very best.
Although he hasn’t been ridden since his retirement, AP’s body reflects the power that carried him first across more than three historic finish lines, and his muscles are still very prevalent in their outline. In the summer, Pharaoh will relocate to Coolmore Stud Australia for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season, but he’ll return to Kentucky at the end of 2017.
We will have to wait a couple of years before we know what will become of the stallion’s first foals, and only time will tell whether there will be another Triple Crown winner in the foreseeable future. For now, we can continue to appreciate the kind soul whose heart captured the spirit of horse racing at its very best. Or, in the words of announcer Larry Collmus—who so passionately called Pharoah’s last race at the Breeders Cup Classic—he will forever be, “A Triple Crown Winner, a Breeders Cup Winner, a horse of a lifetime.”
Photography by Tori Repole for NF Style.