Add Kentucky Sportsman of the Year to American Pharoah’s ridiculously long list of accolades. The Lexington Herald Leader has bestowed this honor after taking votes from 163 different members of the media in the state. The Triple Crown champion was named on 150 of those ballots, and led all candidates with 141 first place votes.
American Pharoah essentially beat out perennial contender Jon Calipari, the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team, by the largest margin of victory ever recorded in the history of the Kentucky Sportsman of the Year award. The Wildcats went an astonishing 38-1 this season before losing out to Duke in a thrilling championship battle. They were also undefeated during the regular season, which made Calipari an obvious choice for Kentucky Sportsman of the Year even though he’s from Pennsylvania. But 38 wins couldn’t compare to a moment 37 years in the making.
By winning the first Triple Crown since 1978, the Kentucky bred American Pharoah rushed in to the hearts of Americans everywhere, and boosted the mainstream appeal of horse racing to a level that it has never known before. Back in December, American Pharoah was part of a huge pool of a Sportsman of the Year poll that Sports Illustrated ran online. He thrashed the competition by garnering 47% of the votes. The Kansas City Royals finished second in that vote with 29% of the votes, while popular sports figures such as Steph Curry and Lionel Messi finished with the same type of polls that Jeb Bush currently has in the Republican presidential candidate race.
Even with American Pharoah becoming an overwhelming fan favourite, Sports Illustrated decided to revamp the image of their annual award, renaming it the “Sportsperson of the Year” and handing it to Serena Williams. Members of the Kentucky media tossed potshots at the publication for doing so as they explained why they supported Pharoah for the Kentucky Sportsman of the Year.
“As opposed as I am to voting for 3-year-old, non-humans who sleep in barns and don’t talk to the media, I find no one whose achievement compared to Pharoah’s,” wrote C. Ray Hall, a former writer for The Courier-Journal.
Curtis Burch, a podcaster and radio host on WLAP AM, was a lot more outspoken in his views. “I DON’T CARE IF AMERICAN PHAROAH IS NOT A PERSON. This horse was the story of the year”.
It may have helped that American Pharoah’s quest for immortality began and ended in the state of Kentucky. He won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs to begin his Triple Crown quest. He capped off his racing career and incredible 2015 season with a first place finish at the Breeders’ Cup Classic hosted by Keeneland, becoming the first ever Grand Slam winner.
This is the first time that a non-person has won the award in its history, and the highest placing of a horse in Kentucky Sportsman of the Year voting since Sunday Silence in 1989.
American Pharoah was also named the American Champion Two-Year Old in 2014, the American Champion Three-Year Old in 2015, Horse of the Year in 2015, the prestigious Secretariat Vox Populi winner in 2015. His Belmont Stakes victory was also the NTRA Moment of the Year as voted by fans via Twitter. He is happily enjoying retirement at Ashford Stud, located in Kentucky.