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May 22, 2015

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-PREAKNESS 2015

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The 2015 Preakness has come and gone and American Pharoah, the 2015 Kentucky Derby winner splashed his way to victory scoring by seven lengths over Tale Of Verve who closed from last to finish second, thereby giving him a chance to close out a Triple Crown, which would be the first since 1978 when Affirmed got the job done defeating his valiant rival Alydar.

               This is the second straight year that there is a Triple Crown chance as California Chrome won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2014 but failed to finish it off in the Belmont Stakes. I’ll Have Another won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2012 but was hurt in the days leading up to the Belmont Stakes and was scratched.  There was a field of eight that went postward in the Preakness with American Pharoah going off as the 4-5 favorite. Firing Line, who was second in the Derby was sent off as the 3-1 second choice and Dortmund, the third place finisher was sent off as the 9-2 third choice. The weather was spotty all day but leading up to the Preakness there was a huge deluge that caused the track to become very sloppy. When the gates opened, American Pharoah, who didn’t break that sharp was rushed up into the race but jockey Victor Espinoza and was sent to the lead and ran with another pace rival, Mr. Z who was battling with him through the first quarter mile that went in 22:4. As they moved into the backstretch, American Pharoah edged away from that rival and held a clear lead through fractions of 22:4, 46:4, 1:11:2. As the field moved into the far turn, American Pharoah held the lead with Mr. Z and Dortmund chasing that pace but they weren’t making up any ground. Divining Rod, was in behind those leaders and looked like he would be the only one with a chance. As they turned into the stretch, Divining Rod angled off the rail but couldn’t go with American Pharoah who began to drew away and continued to drew away late in the stretch going on for an easy win by seven lengths. Divining Rod couldn’t go with that runner and in fact couldn’t hold on to second as Tale Of Verve closed ground to finish second at 28-1 under jockey Joel Rosario. Divining Rod held on for third over seven lengths clear of fourth place finisher Dortmund. Mr. Z tired to finish fifth, Danzig Moon was sixth, then there was a long way back to Firing Line who finished seventh and Bodhisattva who finished eighth and last.

               The downpour before the race definitely affected the outcome or at least made it hard to gauge how good American Pharoah is. He had one race over a wet track and that was a blowout win in the Arkansas Derby. The fact that he was able to make the early lead over that sloppy track and not take much pressure after the first quarter mile allowed him to go on to score the big victory in the Preakness. The fact that his chief rivals, Dortmund and more so Firing Line both of these horses had plenty of trouble with their footing over the track. Dortmund got away in third early on and checked in an even fourth but never seemed to be getting over the track. Firing Line took a stumble at the start of the race and never recovered racing in sixth early on and checking in seventh late when basically being eased over the wire a well beaten seventh. Not to take anything away from American Pharoah, who is clearly very talented but his two main rivals didn’t handle that mess of a track and the horse that finished second was coming off his maiden win. The time of the race was very slow but much of that can be attributed to a track that was a sea of slop.

               Now with less than three weeks to the Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah has a chance to make history and become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown and the first since 1978. As of this writing there are 11 probables for the Belmont Stakes. The only two horses that would be coming from the Preakness are American Pharoah and Tale of Verve the 1-2 finishers. The rest of the field would be coming from the Kentucky Derby and two possibles from the Peter Pan Stakes. Frosted, a good fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Materiality who finished a trouble sixth in the Kentucky Derby are both pointing towards the Belmont Stakes. Mubtaahij, the big winner of the UAE Derby and an even 8th in the Kentucky Derby is also pointing towards the Belmont Stakes.

               It looks like they should have a pretty solid field in the Belmont Stakes and American Pharoah will have to earn it at the 1 and ½ miles distance. The Belmont Stakes which is nicknamed the Test of the Champion will definitely test American Pharoah in his quest for the Triple Crown.

               In other news, NYRA, which announced a few weeks ago that they will cap the Belmont Stakes attendance at 90,000 hasn’t changed that policy, it will be interesting to see how that plays out as the day comes closer.



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