American Pharoah Is a 4:5 Favorite to Win the Triple Crown at Belmont Stakes on June 6

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Trainer Bob Baffert Says American Pharoah Is the Calmest Champion Horse He’s Ever Trained

The Belmont Stakes will be the center of the sports world on June 6, when American Pharoah has a chance to become the 12th thoroughbred to win horse racing’s Triple Crown. American Pharoah won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday by 6 to 7 links, leading from start to finish.

Such a dominating performance is certain to get the American public interested in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Since Affirmed became the last horse to win all three legs of the Triple Crown–the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes–13 horses have won the first two legs and failed to win the Belmont.

Triple Crown Chances

Given the 37-year drought for such a winner, theories abound now that thoroughbred cannot win the Triple Crown. The idea is, in the age of specialization, the length of the Belmont Stakes makes it highly likely any horse which wins at Churchill Downs and Pimlico will win at Belmont Park, which has a much longer race track.

Bob Baffert and Victor Espinoza

American Pharoah, which is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, is set to put that theory to the test. At present, offshore online bookmakers have American Pharoah installed as a 2-to-3 favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, while other have the horse 4-to-5 favorite. Those first odds makes the horse about a 60% chance of winning the Triple Crown.

Gamblers have to wait two weeks to see where the Las Vegas sportsbooks set the odds. That is when the Vegas Strip bookmakers expect to start taking bets on the Belmont Stakes. The sportsbooks are happy with the results of the Preakness, because it should generate more and larger bets.

“Test of the Champion”

The race known as “The Test of the Champion” is an oddity in the racing world. When the Kentucky Derby winner fails to win the Preakness, the race at Belmont Park near New York City tends to be an afterthought. When a horse enters the race with a chance for the Triple Crown, all eyes are on Belmont Park late in the afternoon of the race.

Field for the Belmont

Sportsbook AG has 9 horses listed as possible rides in the Belmont Stakes, at present. Of those, the sportsbook has American Pharoah as a 4:5 favorite (others have him at 2:3). The other 8 horses listed at present are Materiality (6-to-1), Frosted (6-to-1), Carpe Diem (10-to-1), Keen Ice (12-to-1), Madefromlucky (14-to-1), Mubtaahij (16-to-1), Frammento (20-to-1), and Tale of Verve (30-to-1). No doubt, other horses are going to run in the race.

Another reason the Triple Crown is so hard to win is the grueling nature of winning 3 world-class races in 6-7 weeks’ time. Some horse trainers hold their thoroughbreds out of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, preferring to race horses built for longer tracks at the Belmont Stakes. Those trainers (and the horses’ owners) see that as the best way to drive up the stud price of their horse, by placing them in the best position possible to win the final leg of the Triple Crown. By doing so, they can claim to have beaten the finest 3-year olds, which by the way are fatigued from the first two legs.

After California Chrome failed to win the final leg of the Triple Crown last year, the horse’s owner, Steve Coburn, complained about the practice of other owners holding out for their horse for one race. Coburn, certainly disappointed that his champion horse had lost to fresher challengers in the final leg of the journey, may have echoed the sentiments of other of the 13 horse owners who’d seen their horses go down to defeat at the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah Profile

Trainer Bob Baffert says that American Pharoah is a remarkable in another way–he’s not high-strung, like so many thoroughbreds. Many of the top racehorses have a wild streak in them, an inner fire which drives them to greatness. Not so with American Pharoah.

Baffert told reporters, “The thing is about him, he is the sweetest horse of this caliber that I’ve ever been around. I mean, you feed him carrots, and he’s like a pet. But he’s just so–usually they’re like athletes. They want to get it on. But he’s just the sweetest horse. He’s spoiled to death.

The odds are American Pharoah will fall short, like the last 13 horses which won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Generally speaking, horse racing is like a pro golf tournament; it’s better to bet the field than any one competitor. History is against American Pharoah, but this writer has a gut feeling this is going to be the year a new Triple Crown winner is found.