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Can American Pharoah Win the 2015 Belmont Stakes?

Can American Pharoah Win the 2015 Belmont Stakes: Racehorses lose for a number of reasons. They can blow the turns, become boxed with no opening until too late or get caught in a speed duel. More reasons exist and some of them bear little relation to their actual talent. If the legendary Secretariat was entered in a field of 50k claimers in his career, he could still have theoretically lost by interfering with another horse.

American Pharoah Belmont

American Pharoah is aiming for a Triple Crown bid today in the Belmont Stakes (GI), and he proved himself over and over again throughout the year in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Photo: Susie Raisher, Coglianese/NYRA

American Pharoah is aiming for a Triple Crown bid today in the Belmont Stakes (GI), and he proved himself over and over again throughout the year. He won on a wet track at Oaklawn Park in the Rebel (GII), and then on a fast surface in the Arkansas Derby (GI) while conceding the lead early. The star colt conceded the lead again in the Kentucky Derby (GI), and rallied to take the race over Firing Line and Dortmund. In the Preakness (GI), American Pharoah went back to his leading ways over a sloppy track and captured the second Triple Crown leg.

This colt is versatile! He wins no matter what, at least in his five races this year so far. Versatile horses are the best kind, because they can adapt to different situations as they play out on the racetrack. If there is a fast pace, American Pharoah will rate and let a few a horses contend for the lead early. If the pace is slow, no doubt exists that American Pharoah can translate a loose lead into a dominating performance. He proved this last year as a two-year-old, when he defeated Calculator and Texas Red at Santa Anita in the FrontRunner (GI).

His speed figures are also fast. Most fans know the Beyer Speed Figures for American Pharoah (except this author). What are the TimeformUS figures though? He ran a 125 for his Preakness win and 127 for the Kentucky Derby. Subtract roughly 15 points to get close to what the Beyer scale equivalent would be, and the numbers are still high at 110 and 112.

Plus, American Pharoah is lightly raced this year, which makes the Triple Crown grind a bit more bearable. What makes the Triple Crown test so grueling is the fact horses going through the entire series three races in five weeks, and they make a drastic change in distance from the second to third race, going from 9.5 furlongs to 12 furlongs.

To put this in perspective, almost no one considers six furlong form to be a lock going eight furlongs. Making that kind of change in distance is a test. American Pharoah and company are jumping at least two furlongs up in the Belmont, and all horses will need to prove they can last this far. Unfortunately, American Pharoah needs to win the race without a longer rest between the Derby and Belmont unlike the other horses in the field. But, at least American Pharoah’s light number of overall races means he might be able to deliver at least one more peak performance.

Retouching upon a few negative points though besides the distance and rest, jockey Victor Espinoza’s record at Belmont Park is shaky. His best option may very well be to go for the lead and hope the closers are too tired to mount a rally. If Espinoza holds American Pharoah back this time, he might get lost on when to push the button. As impressive as American Pharoah looks in his wins, horses cannot sustain their runs forever, and an early move from a stalking position may result in the Pharoah becoming too tired.

Also, American Pharoah was a bit lucky at the break of the Kentucky Derby because Materiality missed the start and was subsequently lost around the back of the pack. On speed figures, Materiality matches American Pharoah and the two may even hook up in a duel. Each year that trainer Todd Pletcher competes in this race, at least one of his horses seems to contest for the lead. Commissioner led them last year, while Palace Malice and Stay Thirsty were in the mix in years before. If Materiality is as talented as American Pharoah and they hook up early, it will be interesting to see how American Pharoah handles the pressure.

Not to beat upon a tired subject, but American Pharoah’s pedigree on the bottom side is still a question mark too, at least at the unknown distance of 12 furlongs. It is true, that American Pharoah does not know how to read though and may prove all the experts wrong.

What continues to be alarming in today’s racing world is the need for a winner. Horses cannot ever lose without criticism and doubt being thrown at them. Take a look at California Chrome. He ran second to Shared Belief at Santa Anita and second in the Dubai World Cup (GI), and continues to generate comments suggesting he does not belong at the highest level. If American Pharoah loses the Belmont, take a deep breath and relax. There are plenty of other exciting races this horse can compete in later this year, if Zayat Stables decides to keep racing him.

NBC will begin coverage of the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes at 4:30 pm ET. Post time for the Belmont Stakes is set for approximately 6:50 pm ET and is the 11th race of the day at Belmont Park.

Belmont Stakes 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race 11 6:50 pm ET
1 Mubtaahij 10-1 Jockey I. Ortiz/Trainer de Kock
2 Tale of Verve 15-1 Jockey Stevens/Trainer Stewart
3 Madefromlucky 12-1 Jockey Castellano/Trainer Pletcher
4 Frammento 30-1 Jockey Smith/Trainer Zito
5 American Pharoah 3-5 Jockey Espinoza/Trainer Baffert
6 Frosted 5-1 Jockey Rosario/Trainer McLaughlin
7 Keen Ice 20-1 Jockey Desormeaux/Trainer Romans
8 Materiality 6-1 Jockey Velazquez/Trainer Pletcher

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