The rains was with American Pharoah, the favorite sped away to the lead from his the number one post and never looked back winning the 140th Preakness Stakes late Saturday afternoon, May 16, 2015, and keeping the Triple Crown dreams alive. American Pharoah coming off a close win in the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier was the 4-5 favorite of the eight horses going into the Preakness race at Plimico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland and won by seven lengths.
As the horses were about to go to warm up and go to their stalls, it started to rain 10 minutes to post time, turning into a thunderstorm, and torrential rain, heavy, and windy making the dirt track a muddy “sloppy” mess, altering the course jockey Victor Espinoza chose for American Pharoah and the entire race. Only two horses had previous experience on a muddy track, American Pharoah and long shot Mr. Z. American Pharoah won the Rebel Stakes in March under similar conditions. The last Preakness with such as “sloppy” track was in 1983.
Both horses dominated the early race with American Pharoah in the lead, until between the third and fourth turn both Mr. Z and Dortmund had caught up with American Pharorah challenging him, but by the 3/4-mile mark he sped away from the pack leaving the rest so far behind, there was no way he could lose. At the half-mile mark American Pharoah had posted a faster time then he had done at the same point in the Kentucky Derby, and won with a total time in 1:58:46 and by seven lengths.
American Pharoah had drew the first post near the rail the most difficult to win from. If it had not rained, Espinoza had not been planning to take American Pharoah out of the gate and into the lead. The race might have been far different if had not rain, turning the horses and their riding plans upside down.
Going into the race the top three horses of the Kentucky Derby were the odds on favorites going into the race. American Pharoah had 4-5 odds, Derby runner-up Firing Line had 5-2 odds, and fellow Bob Baffert trained Dortmund who placed third with a 4-1 odds. Firing Line slipped coming out of the eighth gate ruining the race for him. In the end, Tale of Verve finished second and Divining Rod was third, both horses had not run in the Derby. Dortmund finished fourth, and Mr. Z came in fifth. American Pharoah’s win paid out $3.80 from a $2 bet.
An emotional trainer Baffert spoke to NBC News after the win, telling them about American Pharoah “He’s just an incredible horse. What he does is amazing, and I love Baltimore. They treat us great. I’m so emotional right now.” When asked about the Triple Crown, Baffert responded, “I don’t even want to think about it right now. It’s tough up there. I just want to enjoy this and thank everyone who has been so nice to us. It’s been a great ride for us so far. You don’t know how much I appreciate this.”
Espinoza recounted the race and American Pharoah’s performance saying, “He broke a little tiny bit slow, and then I pushed him to go to the front. As soon as I took the lead, that was it. Once he got to the lead he was very comfortable. I wasn’t going to try to get the lead, but after the rain I changed my mind.” Espinoza has twice won the Derby-Preakness Double with War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014, “It seems like hopefully the third time is the lucky charm.” Owner Ahmed Zayat is very excited at the prospect of the Triple crown, “We could be talking about history. How could I be happier than that?”
American Pharoah is owned by Egyptian Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables who’s Pioneer of The Nile finished second behind Mine that Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Pioneer of the Nile also sired American Pharoah. Zayat owned two other hoses that finished second Nehro in 2011 and Bodemeister in 2012.
The Derby and Preakness winner is trained by Eclipse Award winning and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. This was Baffert’s sixth Preakness win, all of Baffert’s four Kentucky Derby winners have won the second leg of the Triple Crown with the Preakness Stakes, but floundered at the end at the Belmont Stakes. There was Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. There is hope that maybe American Pharoah will break that curse.
American Pharoah won the Eclipse Award in 2014 American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse. His major graded stakes wins include the Del Mar Futurity Front and Runner Stakes in 2014 during his two-year-old season and then in his three-year-old season he won the Rebel Stakesand impressively win by eight lengths the Arkansas Derby.
Having won the second jewel of the Triple Crown, there is excitement and hope that American will break the Triple Crown drought.
Only 11 horses have won that honor, the last one 37 years ago, when Affirmed won in 1978. Fourteen horses however, have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown including California Chrome in 2014 also rode to victory by Victor Espinoza, before an injury ruined the dream at the Belmont Stakes, and California Chrome finished fourth. The last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is three weeks from now on June 6, it is the longest of the three races, the world will see if American Pharoah can beat the odds and win the Triple Crown.