Baltimore, MD (SportsNetwork.com) – Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah rolled through the rain and over a sloppy Pimlico track to comfortably win Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness Stakes and move one race away from claiming racing’s Triple Crown.
American Pharoah, last year’s champion 2-year-old, can become the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years with a win in the June 6 Belmont Stakes. There have been 11 Triple Crown winners and since Affirmed last did it in 1978, American Pharoah is the 14th horse with a chance to sweep the series entering the Belmont.
Two weeks from winning the Run for the Roses, American Pharoah left from the inside post as the 9-10 favorite versus seven other 3-year-olds, including Derby runner-up Firing Line and stablemate Dortmund, who was third at Churchill Downs.
Owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza took the lead in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness as the field went under the wire for the first time. Running second was 16-1 longshot Mr. Z, who was previously owned by Zayat Stables.
American Pharoah led the field into the backstretch with Mr. Z second and Dortmund third on the outside. Firing Line, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, was running on a sloppy track for the first time and did not like it at all.
Nearing the far turn American Pharoah eased off a bit to keep something in reserve, allowing the field to get closer. However, the favorite quickly began to open his advantage and hit the stretch with a clear lead.
American Pharoah and Espinoza drove through the stretch toward the finish, extending the lead to a final mark of seven lengths. The colt stopped the timer at 1:58.46, the slowest Preakness since when Fabius ran 1:58 2/5 in 1956.
“I push him to go to the front. As soon as I take the lead that was it,” Espinoza said. “Just very comfortable, cruise around at a high speed.”
“Just an incredible horse,” Baffert noted. “What he does is amazing.”
Finishing second was 28-1 longshot Tale of Verve followed by Diving Rod, Dortmund, Mr. Z, Danzig Moon, Firing Line and Bodhisattva.
This is the second straight Preakness win for Espinoza after last year’s victory aboard California Chrome. The jockey also won the 2002 Derby and Preakness with War Emblem, who was trained by Baffert.
Winning the middle jewel of the Triple Crown was worth $900,000 and is the sixth straight win for American Pharoah. The colt has earnings of $3,730,300 and has not lost since his debut race at Del Mar last August.
Baffert now has won six renewals of the Preakness, tying another Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. Baffert’s other wins came with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002) and Lookin At Lucky (2010).
American Pharoah returned $3.80, $3.40 and $2.80. Tale of Verve paid $19.00 and $8.80 and Divining Rod paid $5.20 to show.