Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah is Belmont favorite


NEW YORK (AP) — Bob Baffert and the rest of the group in charge of American Pharoah could smile and laugh Wednesday after the Triple Crown hopeful landed in the No. 5 post position for the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah was made the early 3-5 favorite to win the Belmont and become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner and first in 37 years.

His post was the second one revealed during the outdoor draw at Rockefeller Center, leaving little waiting time for Baffert & Co. With an eight-horse field set to run a grueling 1 1/2 miles on Saturday, post position matters little, unlike in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby.

Fourteen horses have won from the No. 5 post, including 1977 Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew.

“I’ve always liked the five. It’s a number I always do well with,” Baffert said. “More important is the horse is doing well.”

The colt took his first steps on the dirt at Belmont Park earlier in the day, jogging counterclockwise a day after arriving in New York.

“He went the wrong way, so he really didn’t learn a lot,” said Baffert, who is taking his fourth shot at one of the sporting world’s toughest feats.

Owner Ahmed Zayat bubbled over with his usual enthusiasm.

“I’m confident in the ability of American Pharoah because the horse is giving me that confidence. I’m not arrogant about it,” he said. “The horse looks very healthy and happy. We’re going in with no excuses.”

Jockey Victor Espinoza will be taking his record third shot at winning the Triple Crown, having lost last year when California Chrome finished fourth in the Belmont.

“I’m feeling lucky this year,” he said. “Third time is a charm.”

The field is the smallest for a Triple try since six horses ran in 2003, when Funny Cide lost his Triple Crown bid. Two Triple Crown winners, Citation in 1948 and Seattle Slew in 1977, also ran in eight-horse fields.

Frosted drew the No. 6 post and was installed as the 5-1 second choice. Frosted finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and is based at Belmont Park, where he has raced once.

“We weren’t looking for any specific draw, but in the middle is always a great place to be,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “In a mile-and-a-half race, they will all have plenty of time to sort it all out.”

Materiality is the 6-1 third choice and will break from the No. 8 post on the far outside under John Velazquez. He was sixth in the Derby and has never run at Belmont, but trains there for Todd Pletcher, who also will saddle Madefromlucky. Javier Castellano will be aboard.

“I’d envision Materiality being close to the pace and Madefromlucky maybe in mid-pack,” he said. “I like the fact that we drew outside of American Pharoah. We’re going to make sure we break well this time and go into the first turn trying to make sure there’s an honest pace.”

Mubtaahij and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. ended up on the rail in the No. 1 post at 10-1 odds. He was eighth in the Derby and skipped the Preakness, like five of the other Belmont contenders.

“I’d rather be on the outside to be honest,” trainer Mike de Kock said. “We’ve got a rider that knows his way around the track. You’ve got to leave it to the rider.”

The top three wagering choices were the only ones listed at single-digit odds.

Tale of Verve, a surprise second-place finisher in the Preakness, is 15-1. Madefromlucky, who didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness, is 12-1. Keen Ice, seventh in the Derby, is 20-1; and Frammento, 11th in the Derby, is the longest shot in the field at 30-1.

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