Key for American Pharoah was form holding |
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
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
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.