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In Belmont Draw, American Pharoah Gets Post 5 in Field of Eight - By Joe Drape I New York Times

Posted on - 04 Jun 2015

In Belmont Draw, American Pharoah Gets Post 5 in Field of Eight
By Joe Drape
The New York Times
Seven horses, a mile-and-a-half route and 36 seasons of failure are all that stand in the way of American Pharoah’s becoming thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion, and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
A son of Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah will begin his bid from the No. 5 post in a field of eight as the 3-5 favorite Saturday in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes. Victor Espinoza will ride and try to take down the sport’s holy grail for the third time. Last year, he missed with California Chrome, and in 2002, he fell short with War Emblem.
“I’m here again,” he said sheepishly. “I’ve come here twice, and I’m feeling lucky this year. The third time is the charm.”
If American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, he will become the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
The trainer of American Pharoah, Bob Baffert, has taken the Test of the Champion, as the grueling race is known, and watched as his colts failed in excruciating ways.
He watched Espinoza and War Emblem stumble out of the gate and lose any chance for victory in 2002. In 1998, Real Quiet failed because of pilot error when Kent Desormeaux moved his colt too early and wascaught at the wire by Victory Gallop by what the photo showed was barely a nostril. In 1997, Silver Charm was caught in the deep stretch by Touch Gold, a horse he did not see until it was too late, thanks to a perfectly timed late rush by the jockey Chris McCarron.
 “I don’t think about it because I know how tough it is, so I never get ahead of myself,” Baffert said. “I want to win it for the horse because the horse is deserving of it. He’s an exciting horse to watch, and he’s an exciting horse for me to train, the way he does things easily. There’s a lot of pressure. Right now we just want to stay focused.”
He will face a compact but talented field of rivals, and each rider should make American Pharoah earn his place in history. The trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle the Florida Derby winner Materiality (6-1) and the Peter Pan victor Madefromlucky (12-1).
Both are based at Belmont Park, have been training over its distinct, sandy surface and are familiar with its wide, sweeping turns.
“We’re going to make sure we break well this time and go into the first turn trying to make sure there’s an honest pace,” Pletcher said of Materiality, who missed the break at the Kentucky Derby and had to fight through traffic to finish sixth.
Madefromlucky was impressive in winning the Peter Pan, where he closed into a quick pace to win by a length. His jockey, Javier Castellano, who is also based in New York, said he believed he has a home-track edge that Espinoza lacks.
“I’ve got thousands of trips around that track,” he said. “There’s no other place like it. I don’t have to think about where I am out there.”
Frosted (5-1) is a late runner who finished fourth in Kentucky. The colt’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, will leave the race’s decision-making to the jockey Joel Rosario, but he has a good idea of how the race will unfold.
“Materiality drew well, eight of eight, as did American Pharoah, five of eight,” he said, referring to the horses’ post positions and the size of the field. “And they’ll probably be the first two into the first turn, and we’ll probably be third to six, and from there, we’ll let Joel work it out. Frosted is doing just super, and we’re excited about the race.”
For Baffert, there is nothing more to do than to take in some New York sights and hope American Pharoah stays sound. His colt was gritty in winning a stretch duel in the Kentucky Derby and dazzling as he floated over a wet track in Baltimore in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.
“All you can do is get them ready,” Baffert said. “If he’s great, he’ll get it done.”

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