American Pharoah is like a 'happy pet'

Secret Lives of the Super Rich: American Pharaoh's owner runs for the roses
Secret Lives of the Super Rich: American Pharoah's owner runs for the roses   

Great thoroughbred racehorses are usually well aware of their talents. Bred and pampered as competitors, they can take dominance to an extreme, biting, kicking and generally treating people and other horses as annoyances.

American Pharoah is different. The 3-year-old colt, who has quickly become America's favorite horse as he makes his run for the final leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont on Saturday, is a gentler breed of competitor. Along with his misspelled name and curtailed tail, Pharoah stands out for his docile, almost cuddly demeanor.

"This guy, he's like a pet," Ahmed Zayat, American Pharoah's owner, told CNBC in an interview. "He loves when you come up and pet him. He loves playing with you, he is fun. So for me, this is a sign of a guy who is so confident in his ability."

Zayat added that most of his other racehorses are the opposite.

"I have other horses that are kind of full of themselves and they bite and they're mean," he said. "It's 'I'm the big dog.' American Pharoah is different. He has a humbleness to him."

A trainer rides American Pharoah.
A trainer rides American Pharoah.

Behind that humbleness, however, is a horse who seems intent on winning, whatever the race and whatever conditions. Aside from his famously efficient and graceful movement, Pharoah genuinely enjoys running and racing, Zayat said.

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"He goes out on the track and you see his ears prick, he is a happy horse," Zayat said. "And happy people do happy things."

Pharoah may soon become even happier, or at least more valuable. If he wins the Triple Crown—the first horse to do so since 1978—Pharoah's value could soar past $30 million.

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Zayat recently sold the breeding rights for millions and he's now sponsored by Monster Energy Drink, a lucrative but unlikely tie-in for a horse who's less monster and more "My Little Pony" in character.

Still, history is not on Pharoah's side. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was in 1978, and 13 horses have won the Derby and Preakness but came up short in the Belmont.

Zayat, sounding like a proud father, remains confident. At the Derby, Pharoah melted down because of the masses of people surrounding him just before the race, but recovered to win. At the Preakness, he drew the worst post of the race and battled mud and pelting rain to win by seven lengths.

"American Pharoah will define greatness," Zayat said. "He finds a way to win. My confidence is not coming out of arrogance. It comes from this horse. This horse is giving me that confidence."

Watch "Secret Lives of the Super Rich: The Triple Crown" on Thursday, June 4, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.


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