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Owner: American Pharoah 'belongs to all of us right now'

Jockey Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah make their

Jockey Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah make their way to the winner's circle after winning the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6, 2015 and becoming the 12th horse in history to win the elusive Triple Crown. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

While Triple Crown champion American Pharoah relaxed Monday morning in his stall at Churchill Downs, the colt's connections continued their media tour in Manhattan.

Co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie interviewed owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat, his wife, Joanne, their son Justin, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza on NBC's "Today" show.

Lauer marveled at the noise made by the Belmont Park crowd of 90,000 Saturday, when Pharoah's 5 1/2-length romp in the Belmont Stakes made him the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Lauer, a passionate sports fan, said he'd never heard anything like it. Espinoza said he was so focused he "didn't hear anything."

Espinoza said the margin could have been even bigger if he'd asked his mount for more. "I could have won a little bit farther, maybe another three or four lengths."

Ahmed Zayat again said he was committed to running his superstar through the end of this season.

"Before anything, I'm a fan," Zayat said. "I love the sport, I love my horses, and he belongs to all of us right now. I just want to show him off. A sport without stars is not a sport, and everybody had been waiting for such a long time."

Baffert, who fell short in Triple Crown attempts in 1997 (Silver Charm), 1998 (Real Quiet) and 2002 (War Emblem), jumped in on that line. He got laughs with "I've been waiting longer than anybody."

After the race, Espinoza said he was donating his $80,000 winner's share to City of Hope, a Southern California cancer research center he's supported for more than 10 years. Baffert said he was giving his $80,000 to CARMA, a nonprofit thoroughbred aftercare organization, and to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

On CBS Radio's "Tiki & Tierney," Baffert, a former quarter horse rider and trainer, explained why.

"Horses like Pharoah, he gets the life of luxury, and some of these horses aren't as privileged," he said. "We need to give back and take care of them after they retire and leave the track.

"And the jockeys' fund . . . it's tough on them, too. All owners and trainers, we have that obligation to the jockeys and the horses because they're the ones who take all the risks."

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