Unlike the Kentucky Derby where he was a betting favorite and the glint in the eye of most experts, some are questioning whether American Pharoah can pull off the second jewel of the Triple Crown in the 140th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
The three-year-old colt and latest Triple Crown threat from trainer Bob Baffert has been called one of the best thoroughbreds many have ever seen, and yet his unfavorable draw at the No. 1 post position has soured American Pharoah’s chances in the eyes of experts.
Of the seven experts below, most preferred Baffert’s other contender, Dortmund, over American Pharoah. That’s a far cry from the six out of 13 polled before the Derby that projected American Pharoah to win, but this go round there’s plenty of reason to doubt he can fight away from the rail.
No horse has won the Preakness out of the No. 1 post since Tabasco Cat in 1994, but a pick for Dortmund might leave some scratching their head since he drew the No. 2 post, where no contender’s claimed a victory in the 1 3/16-mile race since Snow Chief in 1986. And at the Derby, American Pharoah started from an outside gate, allowing jockey Victor Espinoza plenty of room to work to the top of the pack.
Nevertheless, even after the post positions were drawn Wednesday, American Pharoah held steady when the morning line odds were announced as the favored 4/5. Dortmund was next up at 7/2, and Derby runner-up Firing Line is next up at 4/1.
The belief is the Preakness will finish much like the Derby, with American Pharoah, Firing Line, and Dortmund showing in some order. Yet there are some longshots in the eight-contender field who could be more rested and prepared for an upset.
The biggest longshots in the field are Tale of Verve at 30/1, followed by Bodhisattva and Mr. Z both at 20/1.
Only Mr. Z participated in the Derby, coming in a disappointing 13th. But in a rare late transaction Zayat Stables, which also owns American Pharoah, sold the three-year-colt to Calumet Farms Wednesday and the Kentucky-based connections will run him. Originally, Zayat Stables had decided to pull Mr. Z from the Preakness after his poor showing at the Derby two weeks ago, but new trainer and six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas decided to give Mr. Z a shot.
He's lost 12 consecutive races, but Lukas might be thinking Mr. Z can challenge American Pharoah just like he did at the Arkansas Derby last month for a third-place showing.
Tale of Verve, whose trainer Dallas Stewart picked up two straight runner-ups at the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and 2014, won the first race of his career in his sixth start. Sired by Tale of Ekati, the three-year-old colt snatched up the No. 3 race at Keeneland on April 23, but he’s never participated in a stakes race before.
Bodhisattva also comes in hot after winning the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on April 18. His familiarity with the track could be a huge plus when he takes to the starting gate.
Latest Odds with Pole Positions
No. 1 American Pharoah (4/5); No. 2 Dortmund (7/2); No. 3. Mr. Z (20/1); No. 4. Danzig Moon (15/1); No. 5 Tale of Verve (30/1); No. 6 Bodhisattva (20/1); No. 7 Divining Rod (12/1); No. 8 Firing Line (4/1)
Gregory A. Hall, The Courier-Journal
Pick: American Pharoah
James Scully, TwinSpires.com
Jennifer Caldwell, TwinSpires.com
Pick: Divining Rod
Ed DeRosa, Brisnet.com
Pick: Americah Pharoah
Kellie Reilly, Brisnet.com
Vance Hanson, Daily Racing Form
Hank Goldberg, CBSSports.com
Pick: Firing Line or Danzig Moon in a superfecta