AP Racing Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – At long last, a Triple Crown!

American Pharoah ended a record 37-year drought without a Triple Crown winner by soaring to victory in the Belmont Stakes on a historic Saturday in front of 90,000 cheering fans.

The brilliant 3-year-old colt seized the lead from the start and fought off every one of his seven challengers, and made no doubt he was worthy of Triple Crown glory by refusing to wilt in the final quarter-mile of the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”

What a win for the record books. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert failed on three previous Triple Crown attempts, and jockey Victor Espinoza was 0 for 2 in Triple attempts, including last year with California Chrome.

A roar from the crowd went up as soon as American Pharoah came around the far turn, and it Belmont Park was rocking when the colt came barreling down the stretch.

American Pharoah becomes the 12th Triple Crown winner, first since Affirmed in 1978, and joins the likes of Secretariat, Citation and Seattle Slew in racing’s most exclusive club.

American Pharoah, who won the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and the Preakness on May 16, won the Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths over Frosted. The winning time was 2:26.65.

‘He’s just a great horse,” Baffert said. “It takes a great horse to do it.”

Keen Ice was third, followed by Mubtaahij, Frammento, Madefromlucky, Tale of Verve and Materiality.

“It’s just an amazing thing,” Espinoza said.

Penny Chenery, the 93-year-old owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, was in the crowd, and she’s “thrilled.” To owner Ahmed Zayat, she said, “Welcome.”

The names of the 11 Triple Crown winners are on separate signs on the Belmont infield, and American Pharoah’s name and silks were put up moments after he crossed the finish line.

The race was big news at other sports events, too. At Fenway Park in Boston and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, American Pharoah’s win was shown on the video board..

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