Not since 1978 has a thoroughbred won all three legs of horse racing's Triple Crown – The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. The name of that horse was Affirmed. He was challenged in every race by another great horse named Alydar.
Now, 37 years later, American Pharoah has the opportunity to make thoroughbred racing history by becoming the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown. That is, if he can successfully navigate the mile and a half dirt track at Belmont Park in New York in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes early Saturday evening. The Belmont is the longest race of the Triple Crown tracks.
American Pharoah has been challenged in both Triple Crown races so far: Firing Line in the Derby and by heavy rains right before the Preakness. But he answered the call in both and is now one race away from history.
Seven horses are expected to line up in the Belmont starting gate with American Pharoah, who will start from the No. 5 post position. Trainer Bob Baffert, who has come close to the Triple Crown before, describes some of the feelings he has with American Pharoah, going into the Belmont.
"When I lead him over, I sort of feel like I have an edge, but coming in here and going one-and-a-half miles, it's a completely different story. We don't know how any of them are going to handle it because none of them have been that far. We just hope and dream from here on out," Baffert told NYRA.com on Wednesday.
Starting right next to American Pharoah in the sixth post position will be Frosted, who came on at the end of the Kentucky Derby to finish fourth. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin kept his horse out of the Preakness in order to rest for the Belmont. The trainer hopes for a repeat of 2006 when Jazil finished fourth in the Derby, then won the Belmont.
Another horse to watch will be Tale of Verve, who finished second to American Pharoah in the Preakness. He will be ridden by three-time Belmont-winning jockey Gary Stevens, coming out of the No. 2 post position. Trainer Dallas Stewart thinks he might have the horse for the course.
"I think he's a horse that's really bred for the distance. He can take it. He's got the stamina, he's got the pedigree. I think he's got the ability, so it's going to be a real good race for him. I'm feeling real good about it," Stewart told the media as reported by NYRA.com Wednesday.
Post time for the Belmont Stakes is approximately 6:50 p.m. Eastern time Saturday. NBC will televise what could be an historic race. As for Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer told NYRA.com American Pharoah might just be ready to make some history.
"We know we're against it. This is a very tough race with a lot of very nice horses in it. Like Pat Riley said, 'In championship games there is winning and there is misery,' so that's what we're looking at right now," said Baffert. "I'm soaking it in. It's exciting. I never thought I'd be back here again in this position, but the way he won his races, and then the Preakness, he was so dominating that day. When he's right, he likes to dominate. He's that kind of horse. Hopefully, he can bring it one more time."