Preakness Stakes 2015: Do eight horses make a better race?
Preakness Stakes 2015: Derby winner American Pharoah won't have as many challengers Saturday as he goes for the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown.
Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah looks to make it six victories in a row when the thoroughbred lines up with seven other scheduled horses Saturday in the 140th annual Preakness Stakes.
The second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown in Baltimore will also feature horses that finished second and third to Pharoah at the Derby – Firing Line and Dortmund.
Last year's Derby winner, California Chrome, was the last horse to also take home the title of Preakness champion. Chrome, however, fell short of the Triple Crown, finishing fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
The last thoroughbred to capture the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.
Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah's jockey, is also looking to go back-to-back for a second consecutive year. He was on board California Chrome during the 2014 Triple Crown season.
There will be less traffic to deal with over the mile and three-sixteenths course on Saturday as only eight horses are entered in the Preakness. That's ten fewer than started in the Derby, which is a mile and a quarter in length, two weeks ago. But the Preakness tends to have a smaller field than the Derby. The Washington Post notes: "With an average of 10.6 horses in a field, the Preakness is a more cleanly run race than the Derby."
But fewer horses doesn't mean a less competitive race. The New York Times observes: "Small fields have not been kind to Triple Crown dreams. Over the past 25 years, the Derby winner has been beaten all five times when there were nine horses or fewer in the field. It happened most recently to Orb, in 2013."
In terms of where they'll start in the Preakness field, American Pharoah drew the No. 1 post position for Saturday's race. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert isn't that excited about the starting spot.
“I don’t like the inside. I never like the one-hole. Sometimes they don’t break as well. He’s drawn the one-hole before at Santa Anita. When I was watching the draw and all these numbers were coming up, I go, ‘This is not looking good.’ It’s the luck of draw. We’re there. I don’t love it, but they’ll be easy to watch," Baffert told Preakness.com on Wednesday.
Baffert also trains Dortmund, the horse that will come out of the second post position. To have both horses side by side at the start of the Preakness was a surprise to the veteran trainer.
“I can’t believe I drew the 1-2 of all draws. I’m just glad I didn’t draw that for the Derby. Sometimes you’ve got to give a little," Baffert said to reporters.
Then, we have a trio of thoroughbreds new to the Triple Crown mix this spring. Tale of Verve, Bodhisattva, and Divining Rod will occupy post positions five through seven for the Preakness after either not earning enough points to be entered into the Derby field or simply being held out of the fray.
Finally, Firing Line, with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens aboard, will start from the No. 8 post position and get another chance at beating American Pharoah.
“If I can draw the trip up the same way that I would have drawn the draw up, then we're in good shape. I'm pretty pleased," Stevens told Preakness.com.
The website also reports that this will be the first time the top three finishers from the Kentucky Derby will have run in the Preakness Stakes since 2009.
The Preakness Stakes will be televised on NBC, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday. Post time for the race is scheduled for 6:19 p.m.