This upcoming Saturday June 6th, is the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York and this year it could be the culmination of a Triple Crown, one of the most improbable feats in all of sports. American Pharoah is the latest Thouroughbred to win the first two Triple Crown races and he is going for the trifecta and the Triple Crown.
In the history of Horse Racing, there have been just 11 horses to win the Triple Crown; the last horse being Affirmed back in 1978. It has been quite some time since there has been a winner of this incredible feat. Since 1978, there have been 13 different horses that have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes to set up the Belmont as the win-all take-all race, but have failed to accomplish the daunting task of the longest Triple Crown race.
The Belmont Stakes is the perfect race to conclude the three Triple Crown races because it is the longest of the three at 1 mile and a half. It is the true test of a champion and it will be interesting to see if American Pharoah can capture this incredible feat. Jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert will get their chance this upcoming Saturday, but for both Espinoza and Baffert, this isn’t their first go around.
Victor Espinoza is an experienced jockey and will attempt a record third try at the Triple Crown. He was close just one year ago in 2014 while he rode California Chrome to wins at the Derby and the Preakness, but ultimately fell short. His first go around was with War Emblem in 2002 where he once again fell one race shy of the prize.
Espinoza’s counterpart in 2015 with American Pharoah is trainer Bob Baffert who has won four Kentucky Derby’s, six Preakness Stakes’, but only one Belmont Stakes which was in 2001. Him and Espinoza came one race short once before in 2002 while with War Emblem. This is Baffert’s fourth time training a horse that has won the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby, but nothing is a given especially if the track is sloppy like it was in the Preakness. Baffert’s horses have just once won the Belmont, which could be an interesting talking point as the race draws nearer.
American Pharoah was the favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and will almost surely be the favorite once again this weekend. In the Derby, American Pharoah won by just one length ahead of Firing Line and Dortmund and in the Preakness, he had to deal with a very muddy and sloppy track that was drenched by rain, but he came out of that race winning by the sixth largest margin in the history of the Preakness while leading nearly the entire way.
Baffert did make an interesting decision, however, leading up to the Belmont this week. Instead of training in New York, he decided to train at Churchill Downs, which is a track that American Pharoah enjoys training at and will ship the horse out later than normal. They will not have a timed run leading up to the Belmont, but he thinks that this will keep the horse happy and has used this tactic back in 2001 when he won his lone Belmont Stakes. We’ll see if this tactic ends up turning into a Triple Crown victory.
Winning a Triple Crown is no ordinary feat and is probably one of, if not, the hardest feats in all of sports to accomplish. Just stating the fact that it’s been 37 years since the last Triple Crown horse has run, tells you what you need to know about this accomplishment. It all started back in 1919 with Sir Barton and in all since Sir Barton won 96 years ago there have been just 24 horses that have had the chance to capture this elusive feat.
According to Odds Shark, American Pharoah is the favorite at 4-5 odds to win the Belmont Stakes. There are only eight horses total competing in Elmont, New York this weekend which can only help American Pharoah’s chances. Tale of Verve, who finished second, was the only other horse that raced at the Preakness, which could mean one of two things, either the other horses are fresher and ready to go, or they aren’t experienced and haven’t gone through the gauntlet of racing all three like American Pharoah has.
Many horses have come so close to completing the Triple Crown and because it hasn’t happened since 1978, people have a hard time believing that it is going to happen. This year could be different and the track conditions could have a lot to do with that on race day. The Belmont will once again be the track that is “The Test of the Champion.”
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub