Sunday, June 10, 2018

American Pharoah: Finally the One (and Justify, too!)

"And they’re into the stretch, and American Pharoah makes his run for glory as they come into the final furlong. Frosted is second. With one-eighth of a mile to go, American Pharoah’s got a two length lead. Frosted is all out at the sixteenth pole. And here it is! The 37-year wait is over! American Pharoah is finally the one! American Pharoah has won the Triple Crown!”

Photo by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
A number of years ago, I began painting the American Triple Crown winners. I intended to paint all eleven, and I started with the last three from the 1970s, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, thinking they'd be the most popular. I then went back to the beginning and painted Sir Barton and Gallant Fox before becoming distracted with other projects and other Thoroughbred portrait models.

When American Pharoah was crowned the twelfth Triple Crown winner in 2015 after an agonizing 37-year wait, I knew I had to pick the project back up again, starting of course with him. I was busy trying to clean out my commissions backlog, but I squeezed in work on him between painting other models. It took me two years to finally finish him up, and while I posted a picture of the model to my Instagram feed and started writing this blog last year, for some reason, I never finished it.

My Pharoah
Three weeks ago, the day before the Preakness as a matter of fact, my sister and I traveled to Kentucky to see our hero. As kids, we always watched the Triple Crown races together, and even now that we're older and live in different states, we talk horse racing regularly. When Pharoah won the Belmont, we both shrieked our excitement to each other across the miles through our phones. Seeing him together in the flesh was a dream come true. It was an amazing, wonderful, perfect day.

The horse of a lifetime
The next afternoon, we watched Justify roll to victory through the fog at Pimlico, and we got to scream and cry and hug in the same room for once. And now, with that big chestnut's almost unbelievable performance at Belmont yesterday, I find that I am hoarse from shrieking again, and I need to paint another Triple Crown winner! I can hardly believe it. Thirty-seven years of miss after miss after heart-breaking miss, and now we've had two Triple Crown winners in just three years. Thank you, racing gods! I am a happy, happy fan.