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At Belmont and beyond, fans celebrate American Pharoah’s win

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    American Pharoah (5) with jockey Victor Espinoza up breaks out of the starting gate at the start of the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race at Belmont Park on Saturday in Elmont, N.Y.
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NEW YORK » From Belmont Park to Fenway Park and far beyond, it was a party that horse racing had been waiting to throw for 37 years.

All over, there were cheers as American Pharoah galloped away Saturday with the Triple Crown fans had craved for almost four decades.

"I feel like I was honestly a part of history today," said New York City resident Zach Witkoff, 22, who last year left the Belmont Stakes dejected after California Chrome’s failed bid at one of sports’ most elusive feats. "I think all the fans felt that way."

In Boston, the Red Sox played a highlight of the race on the center-field scoreboard during a pitching change in the eighth inning, accompanied by the Lone Ranger’s theme song — "The William Tell Overture." The crowd at Fenway roared when the finish was shown.

In Los Angeles, the race was shown on the video board at Dodger Stadium while the St. Louis Cardinals warmed up.

At Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, a short ride from Belmont over the Throgs Neck Bridge, Kool and the Gang’s "Celebration" blared over the sound system when American Pharoah’s romp was shown.

At the track, many of the 90,000 in attendance hugged one another and slapped hands after the bay colt won. Some held up phones in the air, trying to capture the moment — the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Josie Cliffe, of Ellsworth, Iowa, bought a $2 winning ticket — but said she wasn’t going to cash it.

"I’m planning on putting it by Belmont glass up on my wall," the longtime racing fan said after her first visit to Belmont Park. "We are not cashing it in because it’s a great souvenir for $2."

James Maceiko, of Deer Park, New York, has been attending the Belmont Stakes hoping to witness a Triple Crown since Funny Cide made the attempt in 2003 — but now has proof in the form of an admissions ticket that he saw history live, at the race track.

"I’ll probably put it in a frame and hang it someplace," he said.

Patrons at the sports book inside the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas hugged as American Pharoah crossed the finish line.

At Los Alamitos Race Course in Southern California, horseplayers danced and punched the air in celebration. Fans also gathered to watch the race outside Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, as they were arriving to watch Chicago and Tampa Bay play Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Jeanie Buss, the president of the Los Angeles Lakers, tweeted "That horse is an ANIMAL!!"

At Belmont, as American Pharoah rounded the curve into the final stretch, the crowd’s roar grew and drinks spilled and splashed as he approached the finish line and finally won by 5 ½ lengths.

"I’m overwhelmed right now," said Kirk Krininger of New Albany, Indiana, after the race. "I’ve been to the Belmont several times, been waiting for this and just can’t even believe it. Just an exhilarating experience."

A beaming Penny Chenery, the owner of the 1973 Triple Crown champion horse Secretariat, said simply: "I’m thrilled."

Associated Press writers Tim Reynolds in Miami, Ronald Blum in New York and freelancer Ken Powtak in Boston contributed to this report.

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