Book Review: American Pharoah

American Pharoah:  The Untold Story Of The Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise

I remember being interested in the Triple Crown races of American Pharoah and feeling particularly happy that the long Triple Crown drought was over, but admittedly before reading this book I was not familiar with the career that this horse had racing.  This book provides some worthwhile context about the life and times of a horse who was the popular choice for sportsman of the year when he won the Triple Crown.  I consider myself to be a casual fan of horse racing in that I have never gone in person to a horse race, but I have watched plenty of Triple Crown races over the course of my life, and I enjoy reading about the various horse races in the sports section of newspapers.  This book is written for those readers who are at least somewhat interest in horse racing but do not necessarily have to know very much about it, as there are lots of explanations about the status of various races and the reputation that various races have as well as various figures within the horseriding world.  And, of course, this book has a lot to say about its titular horse, who comes out a very sympathetic figure.

This book is almost 300 pages long and contains a great deal of information for those who want to know more about America’s most recent Triple Crown winning horse.  The author begins with a discussion of the conception of American Pharoah from a stallion and dam that were both owned by an Egyptian breeder (1).  After that the author talks about the promise the colt showed in early care (2) as well as the way that the horse’s trainer saw the horse as a “get-out” horse early on (3).  There is a discussion about the long summer (5) and various experiments about how to best race the horse (6), and the speed that the horse was found to show by jockey Victor Espinoza (7).  There are chapters about the horse’s move up to bigger races to test his stamina (8), and a race that was won by being lucky if not smart (9).  After this the story talks about the readiness of American Pharoah for racing (10, 11), his victory at the Kentucky Derby (12), as well as the Preakness (13), the hype that followed him (14), his victory at Belmont (15), and his victory lap after winning the Triple Crown (16).  There is a discussion of a race that champions tend to lose, as American Pharoah did (17), and then a return to California (18) before winning the Breeder’s Cup to close his racing career (19).  The book also contains acknowledgments, a glossary of horse racing terms, and seven appendices that look at the pedigree of American Pharoah (A), the official charts for the Triple Crown races and the Breeder’s Cup (B,C,D,E), and American Pharoah’s lifetime past performances (F) and workouts (G) before ending with notes, photo credits, and an index.

What is it that makes this book such a compelling one?  For one, the book has an immensely sympathetic horse at the core of the book, a horse with some notable ancestors but one that slipped under the radar, showing early promise but also some definite quirks like being generally placid, large, and having too short of a tail.  And the people around American Pharoah are just as compelling.  Victor Espinoza shines as the jockey finding a second wind and a new passion for racing when he also finds himself with a girlfriend.  Owner Zayat and trainer Baffert are compelling figures as well, as are many many others who form part of American Pharoah’s story.  With a successful racehorse at its core and a writer who knows how to bring the sometimes shady but often compelling world of horse racing to life through vivid description and a great deal of sound historical context, this book makes a great book to read if you happen to like horses and care about the Triple Crown.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Sports and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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