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This year’s Preakness Stakes number one post was drawn by winner of the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah, which may put him at a tactical disadvantage. In the history of this race, there has only one horse out of last 54 number one post runners who had won from this position, thus Ahmed Zayat, may be presented with a challenge when it comes to his horse being the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. The Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, three of the largest horse racing events in the U.S. There have only been 11 winners – last two in the consecutive years of 1977 and 1978 with Seattle Slew and Affirmed winning respectively. Since then, while there have been some occasions where horses had won two out of the three, this Triple Crown award has yet still to be won.
Since the 2015 Kentucky Derby winner at Churchill Downs has been assigned to this not-so-coveted post, it will take some good planning and strategy, courtesy of trainer Bob Baffert, who despite his record of winning five Preakness Stakes, has never had the non-luck of the draw of the number one post. In contrast to Baffert’s cautious confidence that American Pharoah may still have a strong chance of taking the second leg of the Triple Crown this Saturday, was Gary Stevens reaction to the results of his draw. Firing Line, who Stevens rode to second place received the eighth post, the outermost position in the race to be run at Pimlico. Prior to the drawing, Stevens told owner Arnold Zetcher that he would prefer to start from outside. Adding to his excitement was not only American Pharoah’s position, but also the results for Dortmund, one of Baffert’s other horses, in getting the number two post. Dortmund came in third in the Derby, marking his first career loss in seven races. Both of these horses will have to use their speed early on in the race to avoid being crowded in on the rail.
Baffert’s two trainees will be arriving at Baltimore’s Pimlico track this Wednesday, flying in from Louisville Kentucky. Despite American Pharoah’s position, he is still designated as the favorite with 4/5 morning odds. Dormund trails him with 3/1 odds and Firing line – 4/1. Only one other horse, Danzig Moon, who took fifth place in the Derby has been given favorable odds, with the other four out of the eight runners picked as long-shots.
Several owners have decided not to race their horses in this year’s Preakness Stakes, among them Carpe Diem, Materiality, Competitive Edge and Stanford. Three horses who did not run the Derby, Verve, Divining Rod and Bodhisattva will run this Saturday, which makes almost half of the field, newcomers to this year’s Triple Crown since its first leg. Stevens hopes that Firing Line will not have the same stigma of Alydar in the 1978 Triple Crown races. In the Belmont Stakes, its final leg, Alydar lost by only a nose to Affirmed, the 11th and most recent Triple Crown winner. Despite the huge effort he put in that race, his claim to fame ended up being the best horse to have never won a major race. Stevens and Zetcher hope that with the favorite, American Pharoah slated to run from the number one post in this year’s Preakness Stakes, they will be able to use the outside post to their advantage.
By Bill Ades
USA Today – American Pharoah draws post No. 1 for Preakness Stakes
SB Nation – 2015 Preakness Stakes: Firing Line trying to avoid becoming the next Alydar
Photo by areseedy – Flickr License