(Reuters) - The sound of silence will be the perfect backdrop for Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah who, as has become habit, will be wearing ear plugs for Saturday's Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
American Pharoah, the 2-5 Preakness favorite, and stablemate Dortmund both have sensitive ears and the two colts will be 'plugged in' for the second leg of U.S. thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown to help drown out the crowd noise.
"Having a lot of people, a crowd around makes Pharoah nervous," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert told reporters after morning gallops on Friday.
"After his first race, in which he was terrible, we determined he was sensitive to sound. He's a very gentle horse, but his ears are so sensitive. We started putting cotton in them."
When Baffert felt that the visible cotton plugs looked rather crude, he decided to get a pair of proper earplugs for both of his Preakness contenders.
"They cost about $6 a pair," he smiled.
While American Pharoah has commanded the spotlight in the build-up to the 140th running of the 1-3/16 mile Preakness, Baffert warned that Dortmund (7-2) should not be overlooked.
Dortmund set the pace in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and stood up to the challenge presented to his outside by Firing Line for better than 1-1/8 miles before finishing third.
"Dortmund came in undefeated and he still ran a very gallant race," Baffert said. "I really thought when they turned down the backside that he would win it, the way he was cruising along.
"He got a little tired, but since then he's come back and he's really trained well. I expect another big effort out of him.
"All of the horses that ran in the Derby that are here, they look like they are training really well. It should be a very competitive race."
Most eyes at the Preakness, however, will be firmly fixed on American Pharoah whose Derby victory was a fifth win a row to stir hopes of a possible first Triple Crown sweep since Affirmed in 1978.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg/Frank Pingue