The unveling of the statue honoring American Pharoah, who prepped for the 2015 Triple Crown at Oaklawn, is set for 11 a.m. Thursday, one day before Oaklawn opens its 114th racing season with a special 12:30 p.m. (CT) first post.
Zayat Stables' American Pharoah, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, began his 3-year-old season by winning the 2015 Rebel Stakes (G2) and then returned four weeks later to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) before capturing the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at Churchill Downs, Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course, and Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. He retired at the end of 2015 after also winning the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland.
"American Pharoah took a couple of detours on his way to the Triple Crown. But, running and winning twice at Oaklawn he found the stride, the resilience, and the will to win that enabled him to power through the Derby, Preakness and Belmont," Baffert said.
The bronze statue, by artist James Peniston, was commissioned by the late Charles Cella and is the focal point of a newly redesigned entrance to the grandstand. The new, park-like setting will greet guests in 2018.
"We are extremely honored," said Justin Zayat, son of owner Ahmed Zayat and racing manager for Zayat Stables. "Oaklawn has always been a track we love and have had great success at. Winning the Rebel and Arkansas Derby was a great foundation for American Pharoah and it was after his Arkansas Derby that we knew we had something truly special."
"This statue is not only a lasting tribute to American Pharoah, but also to my father, Charles Cella," said Oaklawn president Louis Cella. "His vision for the track was to have the very best 3-year-olds come through Hot Springs on their way to the Triple Crown races. His dream started coming true in 2004, the year Smarty Jones won the Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness; and came full circle when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown. We look forward to continuing my father's legacy by attracting the top horses for years to come."