Will American Pharoah win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown
And American Pharoah put on a show fit for a Broadway stage, going gate to wire in the slop after a flash thunderstorm before the race and shrugging off challenges from Mr. Z early and Divining Rod late to win going away by seven lengths over Tale of Verge—the largest margin of victory since Smarty Jones in 2004.
“I’ve never been through anything like that,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “It was crazy; I was thinking, ‘What’s going to happen with the thunder,’ and ‘he has cotton balls in his ears, and what if they get wet?’ and ‘should I have taken them out?’ Then I saw a picture of the track and it looked like a river on the rail then I thought, ‘How is he going to run through that?’”
But the spectacular nature of American Pharoah’s performance quickly took a backseat to questions of what happens next as Baffert began considering plans for the champion dual classic winner three weeks ahead of his bid for immortality.
The question on everyone’s mind and lips the next three weeks will be, “Can he do it.” American Pharoah’s connections shrugged off how the horse fits in the Belmont Stakes and instead focused on how to get him ready for the 1 ½-mile Test of the Champion June 6 at Belmont Stakes.
“We made a conscience decision that we’re not going to hype the horse,” owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat said. “He’s going to do the talking for us.”
One member of team American Pharoah who will be doing a lot of talking over the next three weeks is jockey Victor Espinoza, who was in this position in 2002 with War Emblem and 2014 with California Chrome. Neither horse placed in (let alone won) their Triple Crown bid.
So can he do it? The Belmont will likely feature as many foes as American Pharoah faced in the Preakness, and likely more accomplished at that as the only Grade 1 winner behind him at Pimlico was stablemate Dortmund, who finished fourth. The Belmont will feature TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes winner Frosted, Florida Derby winner Materiality, and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Carpe Diem (all Grade 1 winners) plus graded stakes winners Madefromlucky and Mubtaahij.
All year most observers have said what a good group this is, and there’s no question American Pharoah has had to earn it, and as tough a test as any Grade 1 is let alone classic races, the Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line is the biggest, and it’s a gateway to immortality.