By Michael Hill
American Pharoah, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and now Triple Crown contender is inspiring a nation of horse racing fans.
“I’m from Las Vegas,” said Frank Paonessa.
This fan and his wife crisscross America for horse racing. They’re Belmont bound, but first stop Monmouth Park.
“My dad has been bringing me to races since I could walk. … Since I was a little guy, even in a stroller he was bringing me,” said Paonessa. Which horse is his favorite tomorrow? “Would love to see Pharoah win it because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was 3 years old the last time someone won a Triple Crown winner.”
Some say horse racing is big business in New Jersey — a billion dollar industry.
“When you look at the industry as a whole, it’s 13,000 jobs, it’s a billion dollar industry. It means preservation of open spaces. If you didn’t have racetracks, farms would get sold, they’d be developed. We would lose a tremendous economic industry,” said Darby Development Adviser Dennis Drazin.
Big business in New Jersey. Big enough to draw the lieutenant governor to the winner’s circle where she says she hopes to find American Pharoah tomorrow.
“Everybody wants to see a winner. Everybody wants to see the winner take all this time. So, we’re all betting on him taking it,” Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno said.
The hope is win, lose or draw there’s a good chance American Pharoah will run at Monmouth Park in the Haskell Invitational in eight weeks.
“What it means really is that the whole racing world would be focused on Monmouth Park. We’d have a Triple Crown winner. We’d probably get a record attendance at Monmouth Park. It would be a real shot in the arm for New Jersey racing,” Drazin said.
Long-time racing fan Paul Hoffman has been coming to Monmouth Park for years.
When asked what he thinks of American Pharoah racing at Monmouth Park, Hoffman said, “Oh, that would be fantastic. Wonderful.”
“That would be assume. We’d probably come to it for sure,” Paonessa said.
That’s the inspiration of American Pharoah and it’s well beyond New Jersey.