American Pharoah may have a funny-looking name, but one thing is for certain: the horse can race.
The Kentucky Derby won the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown on Saturday, easily beating a small field to win the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths.
It was a much larger win than the one the horse enjoyed at Churchill Downs, where American Pharoah won by just a single length.
Those two wins will now send the horse to the Belmont Stakes on June 6th with a chance to win the Triple Crown, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1978.
For the moment, though, American Pharoah’s team is simply enjoying the ride.
“I don’t even want to think about that now,” trainer Bob Baffert said of potentially making history next month. “I want to enjoy this.”
American Pharoah Was Overwhelming Preakness Favorite
American Pharoah was a 4-5 favorite heading into the Preakness, and few in the horse racing industry seemed interested in challenging him or the other top horses from the Kentucky Derby.
The second and third place finishers from that race, Firing Line and Dortmund, were also in the field at Pimlico, but only eight horses in total entered the race.
Neither of those horses placed this time around, however. Tale of Verve took the second spot, a length ahead of Divining Rod, which finished in third place.
A $2 bet on American Pharoah to win paid $3.80. Tale of Verve was a 25-1 longshot heading into the race, making him the biggest single payout of the race: if you bet on him to place second, a $2 bet returned $19.00.
The race was contested under sloppy conditions, thanks to a sudden storm that hit the area just before race time. But a muddy track wasn’t enough to slow down American Pharoah.
The Kentucky Derby champion broke from the rail to take an early lead, though he was hard pressed by Mr. Z in the early going. After about a half-mile, however, American Pharoah began to pull away, and there was no drama down the stretch.
Could Triple Crown Drought Come to an End?
The dominating fashion of the victory, especially in the difficult conditions, have many believing that American Pharoah has a real shot of finding victory at the Belmont Stakes next month, finally ending the long Triple Crown drought since Affirmed last won all three races in 1978. However, recent history suggests that the odds are against it.
Since Affirmed’s victory, 13 horses have entered the Belmont with a chance to complete a Triple Crown. Twelve of those horses have fallen short in the race; the other, I’ll Have Another, was pulled from the event hours before the race.
Baffert himself knows this well: he has trained three prior horses (Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem) who have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but failed to win the Belmont. However, he signaled that something may be a bit different this year.
“I’ve never won this race as easily and handily,” he said after the Preakness.
Sidebar: American Pharoah’s Name
Much has been made of the spelling of American Pharoah’s name, as the second word should be spelled “pharaoh.” When owner Zayat Stables named the horse, they asked fans to submit possibilities as part of a contest. The name was then selected and sent to The Jockey Club for registration.
Racing manager Justin Zayat initially said that The Jockey Club caused the misspelling, the organization has since confirmed that the name was electronically submitted that way earlier this year, and that the name “was granted exactly as it was spelled on the digital name application.”