|A nonagenarian veterinarian named William McGee got a warm welcome from American Pharoah, the American Thoroughbred that recently won the American Triple Crown.
The Associated Press reports that the horse has been resting since his June 6th victory at the Belmont Stakes — which made him the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978. On the morning of June 12th, the horse was walking with his trainer Bob Baffert before heading toward a photo op at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the Kentucky Derby.
“He still looks like the picture of health,” Baffert said of his horse. “He’s starting to get better, and that shows what he’s made of. He’s still happy and is enjoying the track.”
What caught the media’s attention during the event was American Pharoah’s cozying up to McGee, 98, a veterinarian who has treated six Triple Crown winners during his lifetime.
The horse walked over to McGee’s wheelchair, and gently nuzzled against him for a pat on the head. This more than impressed McGee.
“His temperament is outstanding,” McGee said. “Most horses just won’t stand for the closeness of people as he did. I look for the best from him.
The event, however, was private. The public ceremony celebrating American Pharoah will happen on July 13th, when he will parade around the Belmont Stakes tracks.
However, the horse is far from retirement after winning the prestigious award. He will leave Louisville on June 18th for California, where he will train for his next competition in the fall, the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Lexington. Baffert quipped that he wants to put the thoroughbred “in bubble wrap” in order to keep him healthy.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” he said. “I just want to see how he responds.”
American Pharoah’s rise to fame is unsurprising in the United States, considering Americans by and large love their animals. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans in 2012 spent more than $50 billion on their pets.