Kentucky Derby legends: American Pharoah

American Pharoah became the first racehorse to win the US Triple Crown in 37 years by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 2015.

Racing needs its superstars and in recent years few can match American Pharoah, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby on his way to the Grand Slam of US racing.

The Bangles sang "Walk Like an Egyptian" but American Pharoah ran like a king in 2015 to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Classic.

This glorious horse had a misspelled name after a "name that foal" competition returned the name American Pharoah instead of the correct spelling of Pharaoh. Not that it mattered, given the horse seemed destined for greatness, winning the American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse gong at the 2014 Eclipse Awards.

American Pharoah's owner-breeder, the Egyptian American Ahmed Zayat, always believed in the horse's brilliance, buying him back at sales when American Pharoah failed to reach $1million.

American Pharoah was sent to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to learn the ropes and the astute Baffert prepared for a landmark three-year-old season. American Pharoah's Road to the Kentucky Derby was done via Arkansas and the Oaklawn course in Hot Springs.

American Pharoah qualified in blistering fashion for the Kentucky Derby by taking the Grade Two Rebel Stakes in March 2015 and then the Grade One Arkansas Derby. The total winning distances over the two preparation races were 14-and-a-quarter lengths, putting American Pharoah on course for a strong showing at Churchill Downs.

Baffert described the buildup to the 2015 Kentucky Derby to the New York Times as being "on pins and needles all week long". Baffert already had three Runs for the Roses to his name and came to Churchill Downs with a pair of hopes in the form of American Pharoah and the unbeaten colt Dortmund.

The pre-race for the Kentucky Derby was less than ideal for 2.9/1 favorite American Pharoah, with the horse being fitted with ear plugs because he was spooked by loud noises. A record crowd of 170,513 fans at Churchill Downs unsettled him and American Pharoah played up in the preliminaries. Some questioned whether American Pharoah had expended too much energy and whether the big race atmosphere had got to him, but that was soon to be answered in the negative as the horse was loaded into the stalls.

Supporters of American Pharoah, known as "Pharoah's Phans", held their breath as Victor Espinoza's mount made his way over to the racing pack from a wide draw for "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports".

His stablemate Dortmund settled better, with American Pharoah having to plot a wide course. Rounding the far turn, it was 12/1-shot Firing Line under Gary Stevens that was best placed to take the Kentucky Derby, but American Pharoah had more in the tank in the homestretch, winning by a length.

After the race, Espinoza said: "I feel like the luckiest Mexican on earth. He has been a special horse since the first time I rode him. He has a lot of talent and is an unbelievable horse."

The Kentucky Derby had put American Pharoah on the road to superstardom and the horse proved his class with astonishing wins in the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes and in securing the Grand Slam by winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in his final race.

The New York Times' Joe Drape summed up American Pharoah's swan song Keeneland win perfectly, saying it was "sealing his legacy as a horse for the ages".

Real life pharaohs were buried with their wealth but American Pharoah retired to stud with an embarrassment of riches, earning a record $8,288,800 in 2015 alone.

Various awards came American Pharoah's way including American Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse at the prestigious 2015 Eclipse Awards.

Back in Arkansas, where American Pharoah's Road to the Kentucky Derby began, a bronze statue was unveiled at Oaklawn Park, the scene of his two preparation wins for the Run for the Roses.

"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 told Oaklawn.com.

It took roughly 20 years to build the Great Pyramid of Giza but American Pharoah gained sporting immortality in the Kentucky Derby in a time of 2:03.02.