American Pharoah: From Triple Crown 'sweetheart' to $200K stud

Story highlights

  • American Pharoah wins top racing award
  • Beats Golden Horn into second place
  • Stallion now commanding $200,000 fee at stud

(CNN)He was a stellar performer on the track winning thousands of adoring fans and now American Pharoah is proving quite the hit off it.

The American Triple Crown-winning stallion is currently enjoying his retirement at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, according to his owner Ahmed Zayat.
"He's an absolute pro -- not a surprise," a smiling Zayat told CNN.
    A date with the flat racing legend doesn't come cheap though -- a roll in the hay with the three-year-old costs an eye-watering $200,000 per session.
    And with plenty of mares being lined up to meet America's most famous horse it's expected that his winnings of around $8,500,000 on the track will soon be eclipsed.
    The investment will be well worth it if his offspring can produce half the results the stallion achieved in his fleeting 11-race career.
    The first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same season -- the fabled Triple Crown -- for 37 years, American Pharoah capped a historic year by completing an unprecedented "Grand Slam" in October winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.
    The winning streak has continued into 2016 for American Pharoah as the racing world honors his exploits, with the colt crowned Longines World's Best Horse for 2015 at a lavish award ceremony at London's Claridge's Hotel Tuesday.

    'Cinderella story'

    It's almost as if Zayat still can't believe 2015 really happened.
    "It's a Cinderella story," American Pharoah's owner told CNN.
    "It's the best outcome possible. You win the Triple Crown and you do something that has never been done by winning the Breeder's Cup Classic Grand Slam.
    "To come here, to the rich horse culture of Britain and (be) recognized as the No. 1 horse. I couldn't be any happier for American Pharoah -- he is the horse of a lifetime."
    The colt beat off competition from last year's Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Golden Horn who finished second in the Longines rankings, followed by French filly Treve and American-owned Shared Belief who sadly succumbed to colic in December.
    The accolade comes just days after the colt was unanimously named American Horse of the Year at the annual Eclipse Awards.
    American Pharoah's appeal has stretched far beyond the confines of the race track making the headlines on newspaper front pages worldwide.
    Prior to his swan song at the Breeders' Cup Classic, American Pharoah was attracting 20,000 spectators just to watch him train, exemplifying the way he caught the public's imagination.
    "He's a sweetheart. He's a cuddly horse ... he loves being with people," says Egyptian-born Zayat of a horse with healthy following on Twitter with 12,700 followers to date.
    "Not only is he brilliant on the race track -- when he runs, he's floating -- yet as a horse he knows how graceful he is. He's connected with so many people. He's a blessing from god."

    Tough act to follow

    Last October, trainer Baffert called American Pharoah "our modern-day Secretariat" -- a reference to the 1973 Triple Crown champion, voted No. 2 in Blood-Horse magazine's top 100 of the 20th century behind winner Man o'War.
    The 62-year-old Baffert, who had previously trained three winners of the Kentucky Derby conceded it will be hard to replicate his achievements.
    "I've been fortunate to have some really good horses but he just kept on, he'd bring it every time, Baffert told CNN.
    "He never tailed off and got stronger and stronger as the year went. He was so superior. He made my job so much easier. It's going to be a tough act to follow. He really spoiled us."
    The man who steered him to victory, jockey Victor Espinoza agrees.
    "I hope I can ride another one but it will be tough -- those ones don't come every, once every 37 years!" Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to Kentucky Derby glory in 2014, told CNN.
      "But as long as I'm riding, I'll see how it goes. Every year, I'm looking for a champion and this year I'm still looking."
      Don't bet against him making it three-in-a-row in 2016.