American Pharoah is the favourite for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the iconic Triple Crown achieved by the horse that wins all three Classics in the same season. American Pharoah has already won the Kentucky Derby and if successful at Pimlico on Saturday would require the Belmont Stakes to complete the set and thus become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
The US Triple Crown
The Triple Crown is made up of three races for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Winning all three can only be done in one season and is the greatest achievement in racing in the United States. The term is derived from a concept in England by which horses of one gender can only win three of the five Classics. Sixteen horses have won the Triple Crown in England dating back to 1853 but not since 1970. Camelot won two of three for which he was eligible in 2012.
The American Triple Crown is made up of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes run over distances from 1.9 km to 2.4 km. Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown in America from 1919 to 1978 when Affirmed won each of the three big ones ridden by Steve Cauthen and trained by Laz Barrera. Jim Fitzsimmons is the only trainer to win two Triple Crowns, with Gallant Fox in 1930 and Omaha in 1935.
Since 1932 23 horses have won the first two legs but could not win the Belmont Stakes. This has happened six times in the new millennium including twice in the last three years. California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year but failed to complete the treble. The result prompted his owner to complain that the race should be scheduled later in the season so those horses going for the Triple Crown are not at a huge disadvantage. However, the race dates are set in stone which is part of the challenge and history.
The Preakness Stakes
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The Preakness was first run in 1873 and was named after a Maryland governor. It takes place on the third Saturday of May at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore. The race distance is nine and a half furlongs on dirt and only three-year-old are eligible to run. The race is known locally as “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” because a blanket of yellow flowers looking like the Maryland’s state emblem is hung around the neck of the winning horse. Only the Kentucky Derby attracts a bigger crowd throughout the racing year in the United States.
The second leg of the Triple Crown has been run over seven distances but the current length has been fixed since 1925. Four horses have won the race by eight lengths or more. Eddie Arcaro is the winning-most jockey with six victories and R.Wyndham Walden is the only trainer to have seven winners in his care. Calumet Farm have won the race as owners for a record seven times including in 2013 and this operation are also the leading breeders.
The races that make up the Triple Crown in the States are open to fillies, colts and geldings. Only entire horses and fillies are allowed to run in the British Classics due to their relevance in the context of the breeding industry. Geldings cannot keep the line of a family progressing so they are excluded from the major Flat races in England. Only five fillies have won the Preakness, two less have won the Kentucky Derby and overall 95% of these major races have been won by colts. Since 2010 the Preakness has benefited from a special bonus programme which encourages horses from the east and west coast to participate.
American Pharoah’s Trainer and Jockey
American Pharaoh won the Kentucky Derby ridden by Victor Espinoza but the race was marred by excessive use of the whip by the jockey. The horse was the fourth winner of the Kentucky Derby for trainer Bob Baffert and the third win for Espinoza. The horse is now 5/6 with bovada.lv to win the Preakness Stakes, 4/1 to win the Breeders Cup Classic and 9/4 to complete the Triple Crown. Dortmund is the second favourite for the Preakness, also trained by Baffert so he is in good shape to win his twelfth Classic.
Baffert was inducted into the Lone Star Park’s Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2009 he was granted a place in Racing’s Hall of Fame. He has won four Kentucky Derbies, five Preakness Stakes, a single Belmont and two Oaks. Horses from his barn have also been in the money in eleven Triple Crown races and he has had seven seconds in total. Baffert has trained the winner of all the other major stakes races.
Espinoza began riding in Mexico, the country of his birth. In addition to winning the Derby on American Pharoah he won the race in 2002 and 2014 and has also won the Preakness Stakes two times but never the Belmont. He won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in England in June 2014 on a horse called Hootenanny that was trained by Wesley A Ward. Espinoza transformed the racing career of California Chrome on whom he won the first two Classics of the season last year.
Preakness Form Guide
American Pharoah beat Dortmund by three lengths in the Kentucky Derby when the horses were first and third. They were split by Firing Line who was just one length off the pace at the finishing line. Dortmund tried to lead from the gate to the line but was overhauled at the top of the home stretch by the winner. American Pharoah extended his lead running up to the finishing post and was good value for more than the winning distance. Firing Line is third favourite for the Preakness Stakes behind the other two horses with Kentucky Derby form which can be confirmed in the second most prestigious Flat race of the season.
European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
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