American Pharoah wins Kentucky Derby

The Turnstile

The horse-racing leg of the Greatest Day in Sports held up its end of the bargain, providing the thrilling two minutes as advertised. American Pharoah, the favorite heading into the Kentucky Derby, ended up the victor at race's end at 2:03.02.

Dortmund and Firing Line traded the lead early, with Carpe Diem and American Pharoah right behind. Dortmund held the lead through the backstretch and through the third and fourth turns. Firing Line took the lead at the start of the frontstretch, but American Pharoah took over the lead in the final stretch. In the final 1/16th of a mile, American Pharoah stretched his lead and held on for victory.

Victor Espinoza rides American Pharoah to victory in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. (AP)
Victor Espinoza rides American Pharoah to victory in the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. (AP)

Jockey Victor Espinosa rode American Pharoah to victory, marking Espinosa's second consecutive Derby win and third overall. "I feel like the luckiest Mexican on Earth," Espinosa exulted after the race.

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A record 170,513 fans filled Churchill Downs, sporting everything from cantilevered hats to eye-popping blood alcohol levels. Betting throughout the day kept the odds relatively steady, with American Pharoah listed at 5-2, Dortmund at 4-1, Carpe Diem at 7-1, and Firing Line at 9-1 just minutes before post time.

The question now, as it always is after a Derby, is whether a Triple Crown is in the works for the first time since Affirmed in 1978. Thirteen horses since then have won the first two jewels of the Crown before falling short in the Belmont Stakes, including two in the previous three years – I'll Have Another in 2012 and California Chrome last year.

American Pharoah came in as the favorite in a deeply competitive field, which can break both ways as the Triple Crown plays out. Beating a class field shows American Pharoah's strength. Win all three against this competition and this horse could be considered an all-timer.

At the same time it can be expected that at least some of the competition will sit out Leg 2 in two weeks at the Preakness only to return at the Belmont on June 6. Or skip both and make their Triple Crown debut in New York. Some call this gamesmanship. Last year, California Chrome owner Steve Coburn called it something else after his horse was bested by Tonalist, which wasn't entered in either the Derby or the Preakness.

[Slideshow: American Pharoah wins 141st Kentucky Derby]

"They're a bunch of goddamn cheaters," Coburn told Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde. "If your horse doesn't even have the points to run in the Kentucky Derby, he shouldn't be able to run in the Triple Crown. They're goddamn cheaters."

Coburn's not alone in his frustration. Others have called for a change in the format in an effort to make it a fairer playing field. If you want to beat the Derby winner, then you have to keep the same schedule, the sentiment goes. No resting; no coming in fresher.

For now, American Pharoah is a Triple Crown contender, and a good one.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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