The Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 5, and history could be made. American Pharoah could be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed accomplished the feat.
This race will be the most difficult for American Pharoah because of the mile and a half length, which will be the longest race of his career. Another problem with this extended length is American Pharoah’s tendency to be a frontrunner. It showed this at Churchill Downs on May 2 when it stayed at the front of pack with Firing Line and Dortmund. Also, shown at Pimlico when American Pharoah took the lead within the first quarter-mile of the race and was not strongly challenged throughout the race.
According to the Weather Channel, the weather should not play much of a role in the result Saturday. The forecast shows a high of 70 degrees and a 0 percent chance of precipitation. The rain at the Preakness Stakes undoubtedly gave American Pharoah an advantage before the race had even began because he was the only horse to have run successfully in the mud. The weather was so horrendous during the Preakness Stakes that American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza stated “I couldn’t see how far I was in front because there was so much water in my eyes,” according to Yahoo Sports.
This is Victor Espinoza’s third opportunity for a Triple Crown conversion, the first in 2002, aboard another Bob Baffert trained horse, War Emblem. Last year, Espinoza was once again in contention for the Triple Crown aboard California Chrome, who came up short at Belmont just one year ago. California Chrome finished fourth in that race after coming off a rough start, as the horse next to him, Matterhorn, stepped on his heel causing a significant injury. This is the first time in history that a jockey has entered the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown in consecutive years.
This is trainer Bob Baffert’s third attempt at the Triple Crown as well, but first since War Emblem. Baffert’s two other attempts were with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet the following year. Like California Chrome, War Emblem stumbled out of the gate at the Belmont Stakes and ended up finishing a distant eighth.
Bob Baffert caused a controversy in preparation for this race by shipping American Pharaoh late to Belmont. He has not even recorded a timed workout at the New York track.
Other horses with a chance in this race include: Frosty, Materiality, and Mubtaahij. Frosty is the second choice with 5-1 morning line odds. Materiality, the third choice, is currently 6-1. Mubtaahij in post 1, has 10-1 odds. American Pharaoh is the only race in the field to have competed in all three Triple Crown events, meaning that he could be tired coming into his longest contest ever.
Nevertheless, I believe American Pharaoh will be able to pull away with a victory and the first Triple Crown since Affirmed, 37 years ago. American Pharaoh has faced adversity and has shown time and time again that he can handle anything.
[Image Source: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]