Updated June 8
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American Pharoah rewrote history as the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, and owner Zayat Stables nearly missed out on all the fun.
Ahmed Zayat, an Egyptian-born businessman, entered this year’s Triple Crown hopeful into a yearling auction in 2013, hoping to fetch $1 million. But Zayat bought American Pharoah back after bidding stalled at $300,000.
Talk about a great investment.
American Pharoah was the heavy favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing’s elusive milestone. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. Before American Pharoah, 13 horses entered Belmont Park with a chance at history.
Even if American Pharoah had fallen short in his Triple Crown run, the 3-year-old colt already reserved a spot among the highest-earning horses in North American thoroughbred racing.
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American Pharoah collected $1.24 million with his victory at the Kentucky Derby in May, plus $900,000 for winning the Preakness two weeks later. He was ranked No. 1 with 2015 earnings of approximately $3.37 million, according to data provider Equibase.
Over his career, American Pharoah accumulated $3.73 million in race winnings heading into Belmont. He still has a long way to go before catching California Chrome, who carried a Triple Crown bid to New York. California Chrome has earned a staggering $6.3 million.
American Pharoah's win at the 1.5-mile Belmont Stakes brings another $800,000, not to mention significant marketing potential.
The second- and third-place Belmont finishers received $280,000 and $150,000, respectively. Belmont’s total purse was hiked to $1.5 million from $1 million prior to the 2014 race.
American Pharoah’s success has been a boon to Zayat Stables, just five years after the owner emerged from bankruptcy.
Zayat Stables sold breeding rights to American Pharoah after the Preakness. Kentucky-based farm Coolmore Ashford Stud inked the deal for an undisclosed amount—although Justin Zayat had said American Pharoah was attracting offers of more than $20 million.
By comparison, Affirmed’s breeding rights were sold for $14.4 million in 1979. That’s equivalent to $46 million today.
From left to right: Ahmed Zayat, Justin Zayat and Bob Baffert (Source: AP)
Zayat Stables, which retained 100% of American Pharoah’s racing rights, will get an extra payout for winning the Belmont Stakes, according to ESPN.
A piece of American Pharoah’s winnings also goes to jockey Victor Espinoza, whose horses have earned $10.3 million so far in 2015.
Espinoza said he will donate his Belmont winnings, $80,000, to a cancer research center. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is donating $50,000 each to four charities that support horses and jockeys.
Espinoza has been paired with three Triple Crown contenders, riding California Chrome in 2014 and War Emblem in 2002.
Baffert also worked with War Emblem. American Pharoah was Baffert’s fourth shot at a Triple Crown.
Equibase has ranked Baffert in the top five earners each of the last six years. His horses have generated $8.75 million in winnings this year, ranked second behind Todd Pletcher, who trains Belmont Stakes entrants Materiality and Madefromlucky.
American Pharoah attracted several sponsors leading up to the Belmont Stakes. Monster Beverage (MNST) recently signed a deal that reportedly set a new record for horse racing. The latest endorsement deal for American Pharoah came from Wheels Up, a private jet service.
Sponsor logos were placed on Espinoza’s pants and shirt collar, American Pharoah’s blanket and Ahmed Zayat’s hat.
DraftKings, which runs a daily fantasy sports website, is the title sponsor of the 2015 Belmont Stakes. The company also has an exclusive partnership with Major League Baseball.
Other sponsors at Belmont Park include beer makers Molson Coors (TAP) and Heineken.
Packing Belmont Park
Belmont Park, which is operated by the not-for-profit New York Racing Association, capped attendance at 90,000 after the track struggled to deal with a flood of spectators in 2014. Attendance hit 102,199 a year ago.
Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and Pimlico, the Baltimore track that hosts the Preakness, both saw record crowds this year.
The packed 2014 Belmont Stakes culminated in a 69% increase in bets on the day of the race. A total of $150 million was bet on 13 races.