It didn’t have to end this way. American Pharoah could have stopped racing after he won the Belmont Stakes on June 6, and he still would have been on the short list to be the first horse ever to win Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award. The 3-year-old thoroughbred colt had just won the first Triple Crown in 37 years—having swept the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont over five magical weeks in the spring—and in so doing had captivated a nation and ended decades of frustration in a sport that had begun to think it might never see his like again. He could have begun his lucrative career as a stallion on the highest of notes, with the roar of 90,000 fans still echoing around the rafters at Belmont Park. Out of racing and into history.
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Vote here for American Pharoah as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year:
Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 12.