Two down, one to go for American Pharoah

HORSE RACING
American Pharoah wins the 140th Running of the Preakness Stakes

American Pharoah’s impressive, seven-length Preakness Stakes victory Saturday, that came over a sloppy Pimlico track, now puts trainer Bob Baffert, jockey Victor Espinoza and all of America in an all-too familiar scenario. On June 6, Baffert and Espinoza will get yet another shot at history, entering the Belmont Stakes with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

“It’s gonna be tough,” Baffert said to SI.com’s Tim Layden. “I know they’re sharpening their knives. Two weeks (after the Preakness), that’s when you see how the Triple Crown (chase) is affecting them.”

Since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner in 1978, 13 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and traveled to New York with a chance to seal the deal on history. Of those 13, only 12 made it to the actual race, and all 12 came up short (2011 Derby/Preakness winner I’ll Have Another came up with an injury and was scratched from the Belmont).

Espinoza finds himself in the exact same position as last year; Today Show interviews, throwing out the first pitch at Dodgers games back home in California, and undoubtedly the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in a couple of weeks. Espinoza and California Chrome were close, but didn’t quite have enough in the tank, as Tonalist pulled the upset and ‘Chrome’ finished fourth.

2014 Belmont – Tonalist

Espinoza and Baffert teamed up with War Emblem to win the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but were disappointed as Sarava took the 2002 Belmont and War Emblem dropped to eighth.

2002 Belmont – Sarava

Baffert finished second in the Belmont with the 1998 and 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners, Real Quiet and Silver Charm. Side note: I cannot watch the 1998 Belmont without getting goosebumps because it was so damn close. I can’t imagine how many times Baffert has run that one back.

1998 Belmont – Victory Gallop
1997 Belmont – Touch Gold

Below is a list of Triple Crown near misses since 1978, courtesy of the BloodHorse:

Near MissesIt’s going to seem like a long wait now for the Belmont, but the best part is how much national attention the sport of horse racing will get over these next two and a half weeks. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

More American Pharoah/Preakness/Triple Crown links:
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