American Pharoah entered the Preakness Stakes as the heavy favorite after winning the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. He did not disappoint, leading from the opening of the race all the way through pulling away handily at the finish. So for the second year in a row and the third time since 2012, all eyes will turn to the Belmont Stakes as thoroughbred racing looks for its first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Pharoah and Mr. Z were at the front for much of the race. The weather Saturday was not pretty, and they were the two horses experienced in the elements. Damp all day, Pimlico received heavy rain just before riders were called to the post, and the race was held on a muddy track with the rain pelting jockeys and horses both.
But Mr. Z faded, and neither of the other betting favorites -- Firing Line and Dortmund -- seriously contended. Pharoah stayed strong down the stretch and pulled away, winning in 1:58.46 and leaving Tale of Verve to finish second and Divining Rod in third several lengths back.
The final jewel of the three Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes will be held June 6 in New York. The post time is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. ET. California Chrome won the first two races last year, but failed even to show at the Belmont. Before that, in 2012 I'll Have Another won the first two races but failed to start at Belmont.
American Pharoah entered the race at 4-5 odds with Firing Line at 3-1 and Dortmund 4-1, the same odds each horse received Wednesday at the post draw. Pharoah paid $3.80 to win, while Tale of Verve paid $19.00 to place and Divining Rod $5.20 to show.
Trained by Bob Baffert and jockeyed by Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, entering that race as the favorite, too. Pharoah started from the unlucky 17th gate and held off a challenge down the stretch from Firing Line to win by a length. Dortmund followed, three lengths back.
After finishing fifth in the first race of his career, American Pharoah has won the next six, including the Preakness.
SB Nation presents: Horse racing's Triple Crown lineage