American Pharoah claims Preakness

Taken to the front early, American Pharoah cruised to victory in the 1 3/16-mile race ahead of longshot Tale of Verve, with Divining Rod third..

By (AFP)

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Published: Tue 19 May 2015, 1:02 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:34 PM

Baltimore  — American Pharoah won a rain-soaked Preakness Stakes on Saturday, keeping alive his bid to become the first horse in 37 years to claim US racing’s Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby winner, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, was untroubled by driving rain that turned the Pimlico track to a soupy mess minutes before post time.

Taken to the front early, American Pharoah cruised to victory in the 1 3/16-mile race ahead of longshot Tale of Verve, with Divining Rod third.

“Just an incredible horse,” Baffert said after watching his charge dominate in a race that took on added drama in a deluge that began soon after the horses were saddled.

Fans in the Pimlico infield were shepherded into tents as thunder rolled and the horses were loaded into the starting gate. After a little wobble out of the inside gate, American Pharoah was quickly taken to the front of the eight horse field by Espinoza and never looked back on the way to a seven-length triumph.

“He broke a little tiny bit slow, and then I pushed him to go to the front,” said Espinoza, who hadn’t planned to go straight to the front but changed his strategy because of the rain. “As soon as I took the lead, that was it,” he said. “A very comfortable cruise around at high speed.”

Now with a victory in the June 6 Belmont Stakes American Pharoah can become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to capture the Triple Crown. Pharoah is the 14th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs of the coveted treble.

Baffert has now saddled four of those horses — including Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002.

“I don’t even want to think about it right now,” Baffert said of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes dubbed “The Test of the Champion.” — AFP



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