Key for American Pharoah was form holding
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Jeff Frank - Sports Analyst
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "In my lifetime, I'll never see another Triple Crown winner." Those were the words spoken one year ago by California Chrome's part-owner, Steve Coburn, right after his horse lost the Belmont Stakes.

Coburn went on to say that horses without enough Kentucky Derby points should not be allowed to participate in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes primarily because Tonalist (and two other colts) defeated California Chrome in the third jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown.

Thankfully, no changes were made to what is one of the toughest feats in sports - winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Despite its difficulty, 10 horses in the last 19 years have had a chance to win the Triple Crown and only American Pharoah has been able to complete the trifecta.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt was dominant on Saturday, winning the Belmont Stakes by an ever-widening 5 1/2 lengths. In my previous column, I said to expect a 49-second first half-mile, and if the second half is as slow as the first one, then the Triple Crown is American Pharoah's for the taking.

Well, American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza got away with a 48 4/5 first half-mile, followed by a 49-second middle half. At that point, the race was pretty much over as the horse and rider led by 1 1/2 lengths over Materiality, who failed to effectively challenge the champ. Todd Pletcher's charge wound up finishing last, beaten 22 lengths.

It pays to be on the lead early in the Belmont Stakes, especially in a year a horse is vying for the Triple Crown. The last gate-to-wire Belmont winner was Da' Tara in 2008 when Big Brown was 3-10 to win the race.

American Pharoah had it all his own way on the front end. Many racing experts expected one of the outsiders to challenge both American Pharoah and Materiality for the early lead, but that turned out to be false hope, particularly because the majority of the rest of the field was "come from the clouds" closers.

The end result was extremely formful as the 7-10 favorite won and the 4-1 second choice finished second. The $2 exacta paid just $13.60, while the $2 trifecta, with Keen Ice third, returned $109.50.

Despite his lack of dominance in the Kentucky Derby (winning by only one length), American Pharoah exploded in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, taking the final two legs by a combined 12 1/2 lengths. That total surpassed Afleet Alex's 11 3/4 combined winning margins in the two races 10 years ago.

Look for American Pharoah to race about three more times with his final trip to the track coming on Halloween night in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

He already has locked up 3-year-old of the year, and even if he loses two of his final starts, American Pharoah could still be named Horse of the Year for accomplishing something no horse has done since the late 1970s.

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