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Forward 50 2015

American Pharoah

How this reporter imagines the decision to make the Grand Slam-winning 3-year-old colt American Pharoah this year’s “plus one” was made:

FIRST EDITOR: Not a lot of outstanding Jews in sport for the list this year.
SECOND EDITOR: Maybe Fred Wilpon, for the Mets’ amazin’ season?
SECOND EDITOR: Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, for his contribution to inter-ethnic dialogue?
SECOND EDITOR: Okay, how about American Pharoah?
FIRST EDITOR: Is he Jewish?
SECOND EDITOR, googling: His mother’s name was Littleprincessemma.
FIRST EDITOR: Sounds like a WASP. Is he circumcised?
SECOND EDITOR, scrolling through Google Image Search: Oh! Nope!

So many horses have teased us by just missing the Triple Crown that it was hard to get excited about the bob-tailed American Pharoah this spring, even after he outfought Dortmund down the stretch to triumph in the Kentucky Derby and led the pack from gate to wire to win a muddy Preakness Stakes. But then he won the Triple Crown and our hearts making the Belmont look a stroll. And, to cap it off, he broke a track record in the Breeders Cup Classic, becoming the first horse to win the Grand Slam.

No one was more excited than Ahmed Zayat, American Pharoah’s outlandish owner, who rambled happily into the TV camera during the award ceremony after the Belmont Stakes. “I’m so thrilled, honored, privileged, humbled, excited,” he said, before screaming: “THIS IS ALL FOR YOU!”

A flashy former beer magnate with a massive gambling habit, Zayat is an Egyptian-born Yeshiva University graduate who lives in the Modern Orthodox town of Teaneck, New Jersey. In 2007 he named a superstar horse Maimonides, after the medieval author of the “Guide for the Perplexed.” American Pharoah’s name is not so evocative, but it still seems a wink at a knowing audience: In America, we, too, can be pharaohs.

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