Since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978, no horse has completed the quest to conquer horse racing’s three top races. In the 36 years since, 13 horses have won the Derby and Preakness but failed to finish first in the Belmont.
Enter American Pharaoh.
American Pharaoh, who entered the Kentucky Derby with 5-2 odds, overcame a drenched track in Maryland to win the Preakness by seven lengths and put it’s hat into the ring to try to break the Triple Crown drought that’s loomed over the sport.
But unfortunately, I only see this latest Triple Crown threat ending one way — disappointment.
We’ve all seen this movie before. A horse wins the first two races, looks good, sometimes dominates the field, some people say that no one can beat the horse and everyone watches the Belmont in anticipation of seeing the Triple Crown drought end. Except that the previous 13 times, that horse wasn’t the first one to the line.
So what makes American Pharaoh so much more different that this time around it’s going to actually take home the ultimate prize?
First off, it’s almost impossible for a horse to win the Triple Crown these days. Just ask Smarty Jones. In 2004 that horse won the first two races convincingly, but then came up just short in the Belmont, finishing a length behind Birdstone. Or what about California Chrome last year who did the same, but only managed a fourth-place in the final race? The odds just aren’t in the favor of the horse when it comes to the Triple Crown.
And I’ve yet to discover what’s so special about this horse like some horse racing folks are saying it is. It just finished first in the Kentucky Derby, taking the lead late on the homestretch. And Saturday’s victory at the Preakness came against an eight-horse field and a heavy thunderstorm produced a sloppy track and diminishing the excitement factor for the race. I’m willing to wager that if the race takes place on a normal, dry track, there might be a different result, or at least a closer race.
I recognize the fact that American Pharaoh was named the American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse last year and that he’s won his fair share of races. And I also realize that his jockey is Victor Espinoza, who has been incredibly successful in the sport.
But I’ve seen this all happen before. I’ve believed in the hype only to be disappointed like everyone else when it all fades away and another year goes by with no Triple Crown winner. I’ll still rooting for American Pharaoh to win it all in New York three weeks from now, but realistically I see this being yet another horse racing disappointment.