American Pharoah looks to break Triple Crown jinx

Thu Jun 4, 2015 5:05pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - American Pharoah is closing in on his chance to end a record drought of Triple Crown winners at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday and guarantee his place in the pantheon of racing greats.

Regally bred and just a little bit skittish, American Pharoah will face seven challengers in the 147th running of the 1-1/2 mile race, aptly dubbed "The Graveyard of Champions."

Since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1977, 13 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but failed to win the Belmont, most of them fading in the stretch.

"I sort of feel like I have an edge, but coming in here and going one-and-a-half miles, it's a completely different story," said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will make his fourth attempt to saddle a Triple Crown winner.

"We don't know how any of them are going to handle it because none of them have been that far. We just hope and dream from here on out."

The distance is grueling, especially for a horse that raced in the May 2 Derby and the Preakness two weeks later. Horses these days are bred for speed and not stamina, and three races in five weeks is often too much to ask of a 3-year-old horse.

Of the eight Belmont starters, American Pharoah is the only horse that raced in the Derby and Preakness, so the Kentucky-bred colt will be facing some fresh opposition, which often is a death knell for Triple Crown hopefuls.

American Pharoah, ridden by Victor Espinoza, is the morning line 3-5 favorite, followed by Wood Memorial winner Frosted (5-1), who finished fourth in the Derby, and Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Materiality (6-1), who ran fourth at Churchill Downs.   Continued...

American Pharaoh is given a bath after workouts as trainer Bob Baffert and son Bode Baffert look on in preparation for the 2015 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Jun 4, 2015; Elmont, NY, USA; Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports