Inside post a tricky obstacle for American Pharoah in 2015 Preakness

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

May 13th, 2015

Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah was installed as the 4-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness at Pimlico, second leg of the Triple Crown, but the expectation this would be an easy task was thrown into question when the champion drew post 1 in the field of eight.

Much like the Kentucky Derby, post 1 in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness is not loved by horsemen. Since 1961 only one horse, Tabasco Cat (1994), has been successful in the Preakness breaking next to the rail.

Not only did American Pharoah draw the rail, but stablemate Dortmund will break to his immediate right in post 2, setting up a potentially interesting dynamic.

Up until the Arkansas Derby, American Pharoah tended to run his competition into the ground showing speed from the start. He reverted to a stalk-and-pounce style in both the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby, but might be forced to go back to his old ways on Saturday.

Dortmund enjoyed most of his early success stalking, but in his last several races has adopted a speed-from-the-start strategy. That was the case at Churchill Downs, where the colt set a moderate pace but weakened in the final quarter-mile. He finished third, suffering the first defeat of his career.

Will the pace and stalking roles be reversed for the Preakness? It’s hard to say at this point, but the possibility is certainly there, and jockeys Victor Espinoza and Martin Garcia will have plenty of time to decide what their respective strategy will be.

One could argue that American Pharoah on the front end and Dortmund sitting slightly off the pace would play to their individual strengths. American Pharoah has never looked more brilliant than when he’s been on cruise control up front, while Dortmund might improve on his Derby performance chasing a target rather than being the target.

Firing Line, the Derby runner-up who stalked Dortmund before yielding to American Pharoah, undoubtedly drew the best post among the three main contenders. He will break from post 8, ensuring himself another ideal stalking trip outside the likely speed.

Posts 3-7 are possessed by two Derby also-rans and three “new shooters,” all of whom have form to find in order to post the upset.