American Pharoah’s Triple Crown is AP sports story of year – U.S. News & World Report

By RACHEL COHEN, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — American Pharoah’s sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes for horse racing’s first Triple Crown since 1978 was selected the sports story of the year Thursday in an annual vote conducted by The Associated Press.

Eighty-two ballots were submitted from U.S. editors and news directors. Voters were asked to rank the top five sports stories of the year, with the first-place story receiving five points, the second-place story four points and so on.

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown win received 317 points and 43 first-place votes.

The No. 2 sports story, the “Deflategate” scandal that ensnared Super Bowl-winning Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, had 191 points and 13 first-place votes.

Here are 2015’s top 10 stories:

1. TRIPLE CROWN: In the 37 years since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner — the longest drought in the sport’s history — an unlucky 13 horses had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness only to fail to complete the sweep at the Belmont Stakes.

But American Pharoah took the lead from the start of the grueling 1 1/2-mile race and kept extending it. The bay colt with the unusually short tail went on to win by 5 1/2 lengths for jockey Victor Espinoza, trainer Bob Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat.

It was Baffert’s fourth Triple Crown try and Espinoza’s third, both records.

American Pharoah went on to cap his spectacular year with a victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. He then retired at age 3 and will stand at stud for $200,000, one of the highest prices for a horse in his first year as a stallion.

2. DEFLATEGATE: The New England Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC championship game Jan. 18 to return to the Super Bowl, but the on-field action was soon overshadowed by the scandal dubbed “Deflategate.”

The NFL would go on to spend more than $3 million for the investigation by Ted Wells, whose 243-page report found it was “more probable than not” that two Patriots employees deliberately released air from Patriots game balls to below the league-mandated minimum at the game and Brady “was at least generally aware.”

Brady, who had earned Super Bowl MVP honors when the Patriots won their fourth title, would be suspended four games. But a judge lifted the ban a week before the season, criticizing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for dispensing “his own brand of industrial justice.”

3. FIFA CORRUPTION: In an early-morning raid of a Zurich luxury hotel May 27, the U.S. government started a chain reaction that would take down soccer leaders around the world.

The 47-count indictment for racketeering and bribery was just the beginning. By year’s end, FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, and his one-time likely successor, UEFA President Michel Platini, had been suspended for eight years for unethical conduct by the sport’s governing body.

4. WARRIORS WIN: Too small, not athletic enough. That was the knock both on the Golden State Warriors as a whole and on their star, Stephen Curry. Instead, the sweet-shooting Warriors won their first NBA title in four decades behind the league’s MVP, beating LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.

Turns out that Golden State can play even better. The Warriors opened the following season with a record 24-0 start.

5. SPIETH CHASES GRAND SLAM: No one had gone wire to wire at the Masters in nearly four decades, but that victory was just the start of the year for 21-year-old Jordan Spieth. He won the first two legs of a Grand Slam, halfway to becoming the first modern player to complete the feat.

The only other men since 1960 to get that far were Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods — and none of them came as close to the third leg as Spieth, who was tied for the British Open lead with two holes to play before finishing one shot out of a playoff. He was also in the final group of the PGA Championship, where he was runner-up by three shots to Jason Day.

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