LITTLE ROCK — Thoroughbred racing history secure, next comes the myth about how a Triple Crown winner will have a positive impact on racetrack attendance.

LITTLE ROCK — Thoroughbred racing history secure, next comes the myth about how a Triple Crown winner will have a positive impact on racetrack attendance.

A brief Q-and-A is at the crux of the truth. American Pharoah was barely past the finish line of his 1 1/2-mile romp in the Belmont when a fellow TV watcher who has only a passing interest in racing asked where the colt with the short tail and pet-like demeanor would run next and could we go.

The answers were maybe New Jersey, maybe Kentucky, maybe never, and we’ll see.

For context to those responses, recall the 2013 baseball season. One year removed from baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera was there for all to see, playing in 148 of 162 games.

In racing, stars quickly exit competition.

Whether American Pharoah runs again will be determined by owner Ahmed Zayat, the people who paid more than $20 million for breeding rights to the colt, and trainer Bob Baffert. Zayat wants the colt to race and he said Monday that the August 2 Haskell is probably on deck. Beating up on the best older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31 would be a fitting punctuation to a brilliant career, but there is no sure thing in horse racing and a loss or two could reduce stud fees. At this point, the fees are estimated to be as much as $100,000 per offspring of a Triple Crown winner and that could produce $10 million per year.

Even if American Pharoah races again and folks new to the sport turn out to watch, how many are going to return to the track on a weekday to watch 10 races with no-name runners?

Oaklawn Park might be the exception. Interest piqued by American Pharoah’s success in Hot Springs, first-time racetrack goers might show up for the track’s series of 3-year-old races.

Oaklawn, Keeneland, Saratoga, and Del Mar are successful because people embrace the atmosphere — they go to see and be seen, to split bets, and enjoy the fellowship. If they make a couple of bucks, even better. Such casual fans are needed to simply maintain on-track attendance as online wagering becomes more popular.

A short season is part of the winning formula. Oaklawn schedules 50-plus racing days, the other three even less. At most other racetracks, there are too many races, and too few horses — a dilemma for the industry to solve.

The Belmont was only the second time I cheered a race result without profit as the motive. Completing the Triple Crown was about silencing those who said the feat was impossible, that the three races must be spaced out, and that participation in the Kentucky Derby-Preakness should be mandatory for a horse to run in the Belmont.

The other time objectivity went out the window, Pat Day won the 1992 Kentucky Derby aboard Arkansas-owned Lil E. Tee.

Other than confirmation that American Pharoah is special and that the Triple Crown is doable, the best thing about the Belmont is that media missteps involving racing are over, at least for a while.

For instance:

—On an ESPN Sunday morning show, one of the reporters said nobody had heard of American Pharaoh until two months ago. Did I imagine the horse was 2-year-old champion, that he dominated the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, and that his performance in the Arkansas Derby was anticipated nationwide?

—More than once during the run-up to the Belmont, jockey Victor Espinoza’s 4-of-67 record at the track was cited as a reason American Pharoah might lose. One of the best in California, Espionza has won more than 3,200 races.

—An online piece with the headline "Science Says American Pharoah Won’t Win The Triple Crown" went unread.

—Earlier in the week, a well-known money magazine offered a tutorial on betting the Belmont, including a reference to short odds on American Pharoah. "Odds of 3-5 mean you’d win just $3 on top of your original $2 bet …," the author said. Hmmm. At Oaklawn, 3-5 pays $3.20 for a $2 wager.

All of this nitpicking comes with the acknowledgement that some media only address racing once or twice a year.

As for the Belmont, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas nailed it last week.

"I think he’ll win and win easy," said the 79-year-old Lukas, who has trained the winners of 14 Triple Crown races. "The thing that makes American Pharoah probably in a better position than most of them in the past 30 years is the fact that he’s had two easy races (Rebel and Arkansas Derby), one tough one (Kentucky Derby) and then another easy one (Preakness)."


Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: