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Homeracing

Will American Pharoah win the Belmont?

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TwinSpires Staff

June 5th, 2015

The team answers the question on every racing fan's mind...

James Scully: I view the Belmont Stakes two different ways. As a fan, it's easy to root for American Pharoah to finally end the Triple Crown drought -- the champion has captured six straight stakes and is definitely worthy. But as a horseplayer, I'll be trying to beat the odds-on favorite. American Pharoah has passed every test so far but came home slowly in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the extended distances perhaps taking a toll on the superbly talented colt, and the stretch out to 1 1/2 miles with limited spacing between starts is an extremely daunting task. Making matters more difficult is a pair of quality rivals, Frosted and Materiality, who are both fresh and ready. I expect to see Materiality take it to American Pharoah from the start, proving a tough opponent to dispose of, and that leaves Frosted as the likely beneficiary of a perfect trip. An impressive Grade 1 scorer two starts back, Frosted appears to be peaking for Belmont-winning conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin, training extremely well in preparation, and he's run his best races in New York. I'll tab Frosted to derail the Triple Crown bid.

Vance Hanson: From this vantage point, American Pharoah's chances of sweeping the Triple Crown in Saturday's Belmont Stakes appear as strong as anyone's since Smarty Jones, or perhaps Real Quiet. Nonetheless, there is always little margin for error, and it's seemingly the intangibles that tend to trip up those trying to make history in this 1 1/2-mile classic (e.g. bad break, negative pace or race flow). I'll definitely applaud American Pharoah if he does it, but my gut tells me he's going to fall short just like the rest. Frosted is the most plausible alternative. Experienced and seemingly quick enough, he swiftly recovered from a procedure to correct his breathing to land the Wood Memorial by two lengths, and then made a commendable rally to be fourth in the Kentucky Derby over a track that was absolutely no friend to anyone not racing within a few lengths of the lead. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has won this race before with a Derby starter who skipped the Preakness, and his colt only needs a little progression (and a little regression from American Pharoah) to pull off the minor upset.

Jennifer Caldwell: Besides the connections of the seven horses running against him, who’s actually rooting against American Pharoah in Saturday’s Belmont S. (G1)? Everyone wants to see a Triple Crown winner, but in terms of value, there will be none on the bay colt. That leaves an opportunity to try to beat him with a price horse, and I believe Madefromlucky may just be that horse. The chestnut colt is 12-1 on the morning-line for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is no stranger to winning the Belmont. The horseman has saddled both Rags to Riches (2007), who became just the third filly to win the “Test of the Champion” and the first since 1905, as well as Palace Malice (2013). Madefromlucky has been beaten by American Pharoah, finishing second in the Rebel S. (G2) and fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1), but returned May 9 to take the traditional local prep, the Peter Pan S. (G2), at Belmont. Javier Castellano was aboard that day and retains the mount while be looking for his first Belmont Stakes win after piloting Stay Thirsty (2011) and Commissioner (2014) to runner-up efforts. Madefromlucky just may have enough luck to dethrone American Pharoah on Saturday. Honorable mention goes to Frosted, who captured the Wood Memorial S. (G1) at Aqueduct prior to a terrible trip in the Kentucky Derby. The gray colt, who rallied late to take fourth in the Derby, has been well-rested by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin ahead of the Belmont and could also upset the apple cart at 5-1.

Kellie Reilly: Yes, I believe that American Pharoah will complete the Triple Crown. While this doesn't pass muster as a terribly shrewd bet at prohibitive odds, or as a particularly incisive piece of handicapping, I've just accepted the conclusion that he's the best horse with the fewest negatives. Could his female line finally emerge as the weak link in the chain I'd feared before the Derby? Possibly. Might he have to run the gauntlet for the entire 1 1/2 miles, with his rivals ganging up on him as a relentless tag-team? Maybe. But the more we've seen of Pharoah, the more he looms as a true champion who keeps coming up with the answers, no matter what series of "Jeopardy!" questions is thrown his way. In addition to his flawless performances on the track, he couldn't present a better appearance in his training. And unlike most of the recent Triple Crown failures, I dare to say he's looking nearly bomb-proof. The other half of the equation, of course, would be fingering the likeliest upset candidate. You can construct a case for Materiality, Mubtaahij (my longshot) or Frosted, but each scenario still requires Pharoah to be something less than himself. That possibility isn't persuasive enough for me.

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