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American Pharoah ignites an explosion of excitement

American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza waves to the

American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza waves to the fans after winning the triple crown in the 147th Running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park Race Track in Elmont June 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The expression "the crowd erupted" may be one of the most overused in sports. And what 90,000 people did when American Pharoah swept past the winning post at the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 was more than your average "sink a game winner" eruption. What I heard from the hard-core fans and the first-timers crammed shoulder to shoulder at the finish line was primal.

It was a crowd of strangers suddenly made friends, sharing a moment of history they thought might never come. It was a nuclear explosion. And it went on and on, no one wanting to leave, no crush headed for the first train out.

I'm a lifelong horseplayer and, in my heart, I thought this could not be done. I bet against it, modestly, yet cheered as heartily as anyone when I lost and Pharaoh won the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes.

It's too soon to say what this means for horse racing, a pastime that's been suffering diminished interest for years. Will this horse become an American hero like Secretariat? Yes, I imagine so.

Will people stream back to racecourses in droves? Nah, I guess not.

But Saturday evening, in New York, for just a time, the sport of kings again reigned, the people celebrated an equine athlete. And the crowds?

They screamed and laughed and texted and cheered and chanted and hugged.

And they will always remember.

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.


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