American Pharaoh Is a 3:5 Favorite to Win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday
American Pharaoh is a 3-to-5 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and seize the Triple Crown. If American Pharaoh won the race at Belmont Park on June 6, it would become the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown in 37 years. After the draw for the post this week, American Pharaoh is set to run from the fifth post.
Trainer Bob Baffert was not too concerned about the post, given that the Belmont Stakes is only an 8-horse race this year. In a 20-horse race, being placed on the outside can significantly hurt a horse’s chances of winning. In the grueling 1 and 1/2 mile Belmont, the post is the least of a horse’s worries.
History of the Belmont Stakes
Fourteen horses have won the Belmont Stakes from the fifth post, including Seattle Slew, which one the Triple Crown in 1977. Baffert told the assembled reporters this week, “I’ve always liked the five. It’s a number I always do well with. More important is the horse is doing well.”
American Pharaoh was given his first exposure to the track on Tuesday, though Baffert says the horse got little from the experience. The Hall of Fame trainer said, “He went the wrong way, so he really didn’t learn a lot.”
Odds for the 2015 Belmont Stakes
The odds for Saturday’s Belmont have been released to the general public, now that the positions have been set. Frosted has the next-best odds at 5-to-1, while Materiality is a 6-to-1 shot to win the Belmont Stakes. The field only includes 8 horses, which is one of the smallest number of entrants in the past couple of decades.
Many owners prefer not to race horses which raced in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, due to risk of injury (in a longer race) and the strains of running three world-class races in a six-week period. The owners of the racehorses which did not win at Churchill Downs or Pimlico, but placed well, often fear they’ll harm the horse’s value in breeding fees if that horse fails to perform at Belmont Park.
Such calculations are a double-edged sword, though. Some owners prefer to withhold their thoroughbreds from the first two legs of the Triple Crown, in the hopes fresher legs and a propensity to run well in longer races will maximize the value of their horses. For that reason, the Belmont Stakes often pits fresh horses against a fatigued champion. Given that the last 13 horses to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown failed to win the Belmont, plenty of intrigue remains for Saturday’s race.
Bob Baffert’s Perspective
This is the fourth time Bob Baffert has taken one of his horses to the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown. All three previous attempts failed, in 1997, 1998, and 2004.
Owner Ahmed Zayat
Owner Ahmed Zayat, who first delved into horse racing in 2005, has been bubbling in front of the equestian and sports betting media this week. Zayat told reporters, “I’m confident in the ability of American Pharoah because the horse is giving me that confidence. I’m not arrogant about it. The horse looks very healthy and happy. We’re going in with no excuses.”
Mr. Zayat is likely happy to have the diversion, though he’s received mixed coverage during American Pharaoh’s run towards the most coveted prize in horse racing. Last week, Ahmed Zayat was sued by a Florida man who claims Zayat owes him $1.6 million for gambling debts dating back more than a decade.
Victor Espinoza Rides
Jocket Victor Espinoza, who is going for his third shot at the Triple Crown, says he is ready for the challenge. Espinoza, who failed to win the third leg last year riding California Chrome, said, “I’m feeling lucky this year. Third time is a charm.”
The experience of Baffert and Espinoza might equal a winning combination. Both have had their shots at the Triple Crown, only to fail in the past. Their experience with the process might allow them to make the adjustments they need to win the third leg this time.
Frosted: A Solid Challenger
Frosted could be American Pharaoh’s biggest competition. Frosted received the 6th post alongside the favorite and is based at Belmont Park, so he should be the most comfortable he’ll ever be for a race. Also, Frosted was trained to win long races, which is why the horse has such good odds. Frosted finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby this year.
Frosted’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin echoed the attitude Bob Baffert had about the post. McLaughlin dismissed the post as irrelevent in this type of race. He said, “We weren’t looking for any specific draw, but in the middle is always a great place to be. In a mile-and-a-half race, they will all have plenty of time to sort it all out.”
Todd Pletcher’s Horses
Materiality has the third-best odds in the race. Like Frosted, Materiality trains at Belmont Park, though he has never raced in a live race there. Materiality, which finished 6th in the Kentucky Derby, trains with Todd Pletcher and is ridden by John Velasquez. Pletcher also will saddle Madefromlucky, with Javier Castellano as the jockey.
Pletcher likes his horse’s post (8th) and its chances in the race. He said, “I’d envision Materiality being close to the pace and Madefromlucky maybe in midpack. I like the fact that we drew outside of American Pharoah. We’re going to make sure we break well this time and go into the first turn trying to make sure there’s an honest pace.”
Other Horses in the Race
Among the remaining horses, Mubtaahij goes from the 1st post and has 10-1 odds. Tale of Verve sits at the 2nd post and has 15-1 odds. Madefromlucky is at the 3rd gate and has 12-1 odds. Frammento sits next to American Pharaoh at the 4th post and has 30-1 odds. Finally, Keen Ice will race from the 7th post and had 20-1 odds.
Given the small size of the field, the lack of a clear challenger, and the strength of American Pharaoh’s Preakness finish, this could be the year that the 37-year wait for a new Triple Crown winner comes to an end.
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