The 3-year-old Preakness Winner, American Pharoah, may become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years after June’s Belmont Stakes. His jockey, Victor Espinoza, is the first jockey in history to have a third shot at the Triple Crown in his career. His other attempts were aboard War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2013. A native of Mexico with 11 siblings, Espinoza donates 10 percent of his yearly earnings to City of Hope, a nonprofit committed to finding new treatments for childhood cancer.
American Pharoah will also provide his trainer, Bob Baffert, with yet another shot at the coveted Triple Crown. Baffert has had four other horses win the first two of the three races involved – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. However, so far none have been able to complete the required trifecta and go on to win the Belmont Stakes.
The 2015 Preakness occurred during a torrential rainstorm. It soaked everyone from the horses to the audience. After the race, drenched jockeys poured rain from their boots and removed silk uniforms that were, at times, 20 pounds heavier than they had been during the required weigh-in. However, according to Espinoza, American Pharoah enjoys running on wet tracks. Perhaps this helped the horse overcome his alleged fear of crowds. Horse and rider galloped to a seven furlong victory; six more than the Kentucky Derby victory distance.
While it certainly looks as if the Preakness Winner is on pace to be the first Triple Crown in 37 years, achieving that goal is far from certain. Some in the media are sure American Pharoah will be the first horse since Affirmed, while others are quick to downplay the likelihood of 2015 being the year the longest-running span without a Triple Crown winner will end. Champion horses often find the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the three jewel races, to be too much. The intensity of the five-week, three-race Triple Crown schedule is often difficult for modern-day thoroughbreds. Given the fact that any minor problem is magnified when it occurs to an animal as fragile as a racehorse, the advantage goes to horses who have sat out either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness. This advantage only increases if a horse has sat out both prior events and is only training to win Belmont.
However, those familiar with racing have expected American Pharoah to be a contender since he was a yearling. Even after a disappointing fifth-place finish in his initial race, his trainer kept believing in him. After it was discovered that he had sensitive ears, Baffert stuffed them with cotton to help drown out race-day noise, and the colt has taken first in every other race in his career. He became a champion at two and has continued his dominance into his third year, not a common feat for a thoroughbred. Last year, American Pharoah received the Eclipse Award. Since 1978, the only other horse to win that award and then follow it with victories at the Derby and the Preakness was Spectacular Bid in 1979.
If racing folklore is to be believed, Spectacular Bid’s Triple Crown dreams were shattered by a stray safety pin. As long as the ground around the horse is closely monitored for stray objects and he is allowed to wear his earplugs, American Pharoah has a chance to make horse racing history. Otherwise, he will be reduced in the annuls of racing history to yet another near-miss in the ongoing dry spell between Triple Crown winners. However, should he capture the Belmont, American Pharoah will be one of only a dozen horses ever to have won all three races that comprise the Triple Crown, which is not bad for a creature who only turned three in 2015.
By Martina Robinson
South Bend Tribune- Horse racing: American Pharoah cruises in mud at Preakness
CSN Philly-Victor Espinoza gets 3rd chance at Triple Crown
Bob Baffert Official site- About Bob Baffert
Yahoo!- American Pharoah Wins Preakness Stakes, Has Shot At Triple Crown
Heavy- Preakness 2015: Contenders, Dark Horses & Long Shots
ESPN-American Pharoah will end the drought
Photo Courtesy of Corinne Cavallo’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License