American Pharoah made the most out of the torrential rains that drove down just as the call to the post commenced. Kentucky Derby - check, Preakness Stakes - yep, Belmont and Triple Crown next up for Pharoah -- for sure!
Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah turned the anticipated three horse race into a walkover after breaking awkwardly but soon rushing past Mr. Z after a brisk opening quarter mile. Firing Line took a terrible step at the start and was virtually eliminated from contention, while Dortmund never challenged after getting a good stalking trip on the outside. Now we're just days away from seeing if Derby also-rans Frosted and Materiality can step up their game and prove the spoiler, as multiple "fresh" horses have done both recently and decades ago by sitting out the Preakness to target the test of Champions. Only time will tell, but I still have that special feeling about the chances of the short-tailed bay colt by Pioneerof the Nile. Pharoah's unique spelling is giving sports writers worldwide fits, but this is fitting due to the tradition of naming an offspring after the sire and/or dam since his sire has a similar peculiarity in his name (lack of space before "of" due to Jockey Club naming limitations on characters).
The post positions were drawn just hours ago and American Pharoah was assigned post #5, same position as the speed oriented Seattle Slew who annexed the Triple Crown back in 1977. In that race, the Champ shot straight to the lead then had minor challenges on the backstretch to no avail. Slew got away with a moderate to slow 1:14 six furlong time and drew clear into the stretch to hold sway by 4 lengths. By comparison, the last two Belmont Stakes split times were 1:12.4 (Tonalist) and 1:10.4 (Palace Malice) where both winners were within one length of the lead. Based on comments from both Baffert and Espinoza following Pharoah's front running Preakness score, I believe they will again try to dictate the pace and go to the front. It seems that only Materiality has the early foot to offer any serious challenge, so Johnny V's ride will be crucial to the outcome of Pharoah's Triple Crown bid.
The bottom line is that multiple distinguished race horses before American Pharoah (namely, Majestic Prince '69, Spectacular Bid '79, Real Quiet '98 and Smarty Jones '04) lost this race when it was their race to lose with a poor "trip" that worked against them. Certainly, the same can happen to Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah. But I'm hoping this time when I return from Elmont, NY my wallet flush with $2 win tickets will be prized scrapbook material rather than substantiation of a tax deduction. Finish the job, American Pharoah!