American Pharoah will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in American horse racing since 1978 on June 6 at the Belmont Stakes, but in the meantime his owner, Ahmed Zayat, is attempting to have a federal lawsuit against him dismissed.
Howard Rubinsky, a 58-year-old Floridian, claims he lent Zayat $2 million in 2003 but an outstanding balance of $1.65 million is still owed.
According to the lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Newark, Zayat used the money to gamble at offshore casinos.
“It’s a total fraud. It’s a scam from A to Z,” Zayat said to the Associated Press. “It’s total fiction. It’s a total lie.”
Though he placed fifth in his first race, American Pharoah is undefeated since, with two of three Triple Crown races already under his belt, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
He’s amassed $3.7 million in earnings, and that’s just from race prizes, not the untold amount of betting Zayat undoubtedly wagered on his colt.
Zayat, a native of Egypt, sold his alcoholic beverage company in 2002 to Heineken for $280 million, which is why it’s hard to believe he would have been cash-strapped just a year later, so desperate that he would borrow money to gamble.
“Every time something good happens, someone brings you down,” Zayat says. “I did not, and do not, owe Mr. Rubinsky any money.”
Lawyers for Zayat have filed a motion to dismiss the claim, saying it’s “meritless” and falls outside the six-year statute of limitations.
To say American Pharoah has been dominant in the first two legs of the Triple Crown would be an understatement. The line on the horse winning the last leg is nearly even money, but the odds of it happening are, in reality, much less.
Since Affirmed won all three events in 1978, 13 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes heading into Belmont. Zero have won the Triple Crown.
American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, was on California Chrome just 12 months ago, but after winning the first two events he finished fourth in New York.
The Belmont Stakes is the longest at 1.5 miles, and since the three-year-old horses aren’t accustomed to the distance and are coming off two races in just 30 days, the event is often called the “Test of the Champion.”
Will this be the day many in the horse racing and gambling communities have waited for over the last 37 years? Marketing strategists say it’s in the best interest of the industry for Pharoah to lose.
“Whether or not American Pharoah actually wins, it is clear that a horse with a shot at the Triple Crown is great for business,” Robert Tuchman, a marketing expert and Forbes contributor says.
However, should history be made, the novelty of cheering on such a feat will be diminished for the foreseeable future, reducing interest and bets.
But 2015 is shaping up to be the perfect time for American Pharoah. Of the 11 other horses entered, just two have odds under 10/1, Frosted (5/1) and Materiality (8/1).
“It’s going to be tough,” trainer Bob Baffert said after the Preakness. “This is the easiest of the three, and I know everyone is sharpening their knives getting ready.”