For the second year in a row we’ll have a horse with a chance to make history at the Belmont Stakes. American Pharoah turned in an impressive followup to his Kentucky Derby win, smoking the field on a sloppy track to win the Preakness Stakes. A win at the Belmont will make him the twelfth Triple Crown winner in racing history.
It’s surprising that there are still members of the legitimate sporting press that suggest that American Pharoah hasn’t ‘proven anything’. When your criteria for legitimacy is winning a Triple Crown it’s a sign that personal bias is getting in the way of objective evaluation. Yet the same cranks that dismissed American Pharoah as having ‘never been tested’ after the Rebel Stakes, then after the Kentucky Derby are still playing that sad tune even as the horse stares immortality in the face. He’s already one of 13 horses since 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness which puts him in some nice company including California Chrome, Big Brown, Sunday Silence and Spectacular Bid. He overcame an unfamiliar track, a loose shoe and bad weather to win in the Rebel Stakes. He overcame the #17 post position in the Kentucky Derby, becoming the first horse in history to win from that starting position. He overcame the dreaded outside rail at Pimlico to win the Preakness–again in nasty weather. In the Preakness he was clearly the class of the field as he pulled away to win by seven lengths over second place Tale of Verve.
There’s been other excellent horses to try to win the Triple Crown and fall short including California Chrome last year. American Pharoah may have the best chance of all–he’s a hell of a horse that some are calling ‘the best of his generation’. More importantly, the projected field he’ll face at Belmont Park on June 6 doesn’t look particularly impressive. At any rate, he won’t be facing any top contender that he hasn’t seen before including Carpe Diem, Keen Ice and Materiality.
Time will tell if American Pharoah will go down in history with other Triple Crown winners such as Secretariat, Citation and Seattle Slew. But the horse deserves some respect for what he’s done on the track already.