He provided a thrilling one-length victory down the stretch at Churchill Downs three days ago, and odds makers are banking on American Pharoah to claim the 140th Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 16.
Trainer Bob Baffert’s fourth Kentucky Derby champ was given 10/11 odds to win the second leg of the Triple Crown, according to Bovada.lv, and the chances American Pharoah drops the shorter 1 3/16-mile race at Pimlico were fairly equal at 10/13.
The odds also seem to favor American Pharoah to snap the 37-year Triple Crown drought, set at 5/2 that the three-year-old colt will be the first since Affirmed to complete the now-rare feat, and 1/3 that he doesn’t.
There are several reasons as to why American Pharoah could end the long-standing Triple Crown lapse.
For one, he displayed the kick everyone believed was coming in the final 200 yards of Saturday’s Derby. American Pharoah bested a blazing effort from Firing Line, who finished second but challenged the eventual victor for the entire home stretch, and Baffert’s other Derby contender and third-place finisher Dortmund.
Secondly, well before the big finish American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinzoa showed they could get out of an early jam. Positioned at the No. 16 post, Espinoza had to work the thoroughbred into the middle of the track and then angled him just behind Dortmund and Firing Line for most of the race. From there the duo busted out of the final turn from high outside and roared to the checkered flag.
Also, this year’s Derby field was considered one of the deepest in years and American Pharoah still proved victorious. He stared down trainer Todd Pletcher’s Carpe Diem and Materiality, who were listed at 7/1 and 11/1 odds, respectively, just before the Derby began. And of course Dortmund, who American Pharoah had never faced before and was at 4/1 odds.
American Pharoah has won five straight races, and certainly seems poised for an excellent run at Pimlico in less than two weeks. However, his odds could shift up or down depending on who he’ll face.
As of now, only Lael Stables’ Divining Rod and trainer/owner Jose Corrales’ Bodhisattva have officially entered the Preakness, and neither participated in this year’s Derby. Baffert is expected to enter both American Pharoah and Dortmund, and so are Firing Line’s connections. No odds have been listed yet for Divining Rod or Bodhisattva.
Besides being a bit fresher, Divining Rod is coming off a three-length victory at the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes back on April 11, and he finished third in a Tampa Bay Derby field that included winner Carpe Diem in March.
"The horse is doing very well," trainer Arnaud Delacour said of Divining Rod to Blood-Horse.com. "He breezed (May 2), and right now I am leaning toward the Preakness. I think he's great. I don't want to jinx myself, but at the moment he's doing very well. He has matured quite a bit and he understands more now what's going on."
Bodhisattva has only two victories in seven career starts, but his last race was at Pimlico. He took down the 1 1/16-mile Federico Tesio, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. But as of right now, Corrales is being a bit coy about whether he’ll really run Bodhisattva in the Preakness.
"If the possibility comes, I think I will probably run," Corrales also said to Blood-Horse. "I will not run a horse just to run the horse. If I don't feel a horse can run in the first three, why run? That's the way I think."