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American Pharoah Rules the Thoroughbred World

CNBC's Robert Frank takes a look at the second leg of the Triple Crown and what a win would mean for the Kentucky Derby winner.
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When American Pharoah crossed the finish line at the Kentucky Derby, he earned more than the most coveted title in horse racing, he earned another couple million to his name. Now that he's also won the Preakness Stakes — bringing him closer to a Triple Crown victory — his earning potential can only go up from here.

Even before American Pharoah ran at Churchill Downs—and before he'd run even a single race—he sold for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, New York, in August 2013.

Owner Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables had put the horse up on the auction block, only to end up purchasing him back after going head-to-head with another bidder. Zayat suffered from seller's remorse for the 1-year-old colt he bred in Kentucky, and decided to bring him back home.

"The market didn't value him as much at the time, so we bought him back; you could say it was a good save," David Ingordo, the bloodstock agent who bid on behalf of Zayat, told CNBC.

Over the next year and a half, the champion began racing and making a name for himself on the track, winning five of six races.

"He's probably worth $15 million or more now."

With those victories, top bloodstock agents in the thoroughbred world estimate that American Pharoah's value was nearly $10 million before he won the biggest race in America. In the most exciting two minutes in sports, a horse's value can jump more than 50 percent.

"He's probably worth $15 million or more now," Ingordo said. Other experts put his value at as much as $20 million.

That's because the elite status of being a Kentucky Derby winner translates to money in the bank as thoroughbreds are valued for a combination of racing performance, physical shape and most importantly, the potential to breed another champion.

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'Like a piece of art'

"At a certain stage, it's hard to value him, because he's like a piece of art or a 'collector item' to people in the industry. ... if this horse wins the Triple Crown, it will be a frenzy," said Ingordo.

Experts said a Triple Crown victory could make Zayat's homebred horse worth $30 million or more. And that's without factoring in the money earned from stud fees.

But a Triple Crown victory has not been seen since 1978 when the thoroughbred Affirmed raced to victory.

Patti Miller, a bloodstock consultant at EQB, said she expects American Pharoah could be the horse to end the drought.

"His chances are exquisite, he couldn't look any better now," she said, while cautioning, "Races are won by inches not miles, every little thing matters now."