Going into the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago, I thought there was only one horse in the field of 20 that if it won the Derby had a legitimate shot of sweeping the Triple Crown. That was American Pharoah. He is the best 3-year old in the country and has proven that with five wins in 12 weeks.
His performances in the first two classics of the Triple Crown were no easy task. He raced five wide for most the way in the Derby, then bolted to the front on a sloppy track after a storm swept through to a seven-length victory in the Preakness. He has beaten all of his seven opponents today by a wide margin and is training extremely well. He is strictly the one to beat and will be heavily bet, probably looking at 3-to-5 at post time.
But as much as all the things he has going for him, he has just as many going against.
Setting the pace for the grueling mile and half marathon on a deep sandy and dirt surface, jockey Victor Espinoza’s 2 for 67 record at Belmont Park, training at Churchill Downs instead of Belmont, and all the stats and trends that have kept 13 others since 1978 of winning all three jewels.
Some players want to see history made today, while some are trying to back up the brink’s truck to the ticket window in beating him.
I didn’t think Big Brown was going to win it in 2008, and I definitely didn’t think California Chrome was going to win it last year.
But I’m sticking to what got me here and I believe the 37-year drought ends this year. I actually think he’s getting better and might blow this field away, especially if it rains. American Pharoah is a mud specialist.
He will not get challenged early and has a strong tactical advantage over his rivals.
I will put him on top in my bets and watch history be made with our 12th Triple Crown winner.
Post positions, jockeys and odds:
1. Mubtaahij Ortiz 10-1
2. Tale of Verve Stevens 15-1
3. Madefromlucky Castellano 12-1
4. Frammento Smith 30-1
5. American Pharoah Espinoza 3-5
6. Frosted Rosario 5-1
7. Keen Ice Desormeaux 20-1
8. Materiality Velazquez 6-1
MATERIALITY had a diseased start and brutal trip in the Kentucky Derby, but still managed to finish strong while passing multiple runners down the stretch and landing in the sixth spot. Expect him to be escorting American Pharoah within striking range around the final wide turn. Whether he can actually strike is another question.
FROSTED too showed late interest in the Derby and finished fourth rolling from far back thru traffic problems. Should be well rested and many think is best suited for the long journey with his closing kick. My concern is that he would be compromised by heated fractions and I just don’t see that happening with American Pharoah being lone speed.
$5 Trifecta (5/6,8/All) $60; $3 Trifecta (5/All/6,8) $36; Two $2 Win bets on #5 (Souvenirs) $4