American Pharoah to Headline Saturday’s 140th Preakness Stakes

American Pharoah to Headline Saturday’s 140th Preakness Stakes

Kentucky Derby winner Leads 1-2-3 Derby Finishers in Field of Eight

BALTIMORE, MD., 05/14/15 – Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah is set to take the second step along the Triple Crown trail in Saturday’s 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Zayat Stable’s homebred headlines the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown’s eight-horse field that includes the top three Derby finishers.

Trainer Bob Baffert is gearing up to saddle American Pharoah, as well as Kaleem Shah’s third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Dortmund, in a quest to make a sixth career visit to the Preakness Stakes winner’s circle. Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line, who finished a length behind American Pharoah and two lengths in front of Dortmund at Churchill Downs May 2, is also scheduled to answer the 1 3/16-mile challenge.

Joining the Top 3 Derby finishers in the Preakness field entered Wednesday were Danzig Moon (fifth in the Derby), Mr. Z. (13th in the Derby), Divining Rod, Tale of Verve and Bodhisattva.

During the last 35 years, there have been only 13 editions of the Preakness that were contested by the 1-2-3 finishers of the Kentucky Derby.  In those 13 races, the Derby winner won again.

 American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund will be the first Derby Big 3 to run in the Preakness since 2009, when Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile and Musket Man fell victim to Rachel Alexandra, who is the last horse to win the Preakness after skipping the first jewel of the Triple Crown. In 1997, Baffert-trained Silver Charm won both the Derby and Preakness, while Captain Bodgit and Free House, finished second and third in the Derby before trading placings in the Preakness. The last time the Top 3 Derby finishers finished in the Top 3 in the Preakness was in 2007, when third-place Derby finisher Curlin captured the Preakness with Derby winner Street Sense finishing second and Hard Spun finishing third, as he had done in the Derby.

American Pharoah, rated as the 4-5 morning-line Preakness favorite, provided Baffert with his fourth success in the Kentucky Derby. Baffert’s first three winners of the Run for the Roses, Silver Charm, Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) all continued on to win the Preakness Stakes, which may well bode well for this year’s Derby star on Saturday.

Baffert also enjoyed Preakness success with Point Given (2001) and Lookin At Lucky (2010), who finished fifth and sixth in the Derby, respectively.

“I always won (the Preakness) with the best horse,” Baffert said. “Usually those were the best horses of that crop.”

All five of Baffert’s Preakness winners went on to be honored with Eclipse Awards as North America’s top 3-year-olds. Point Given also won the Horse of the Year title in 2001.

Baffert hasn’t made it easy on American Pharoah to win the Preakness by entering Dortmund, who was undefeated going into the Derby and is rated second in the morning line at 7-2.

“He deserves another chance. He ran his race,” Baffert said. “It’s a little shorter; he might like that. In my barn, everyone gets and equal fair shot. Kaleem told me, ‘If you think he’s going to run well, run him.’ He left it up to me, so it’s actually my call,” said Baffert, whose other three Derby winners were not challenged by a stablemate.

 Laz Barrera saddled Illinois Derby winner Life’s Hope, as well as Derby winner Bold Forbes, for the 1976 Preakness, in which Elocutionist pulled off an upset victory. Since then, only two other trainers have saddled two starters that included a Kentucky Derby winner. D. Wayne Lukas won the 1995 Preakness with Timber Country while Derby winner Thunder Gulch checked in third. The Hall of Fame trainer also entered Cat Thief for a seventh-place finish behind Charismatic, who won both the Derby and Preakness in 1999. Todd Pletcher saddled two starters in 2010, when Derby winner Super Saver and Aikenite finished eighth and 10th, respectively.

Firing Line, who finished just a length behind American Pharoah following a furious Derby stretch battle, is expected to be second or third choice in Preakness wagering that gets underway on Friday. The Simon Callaghan trainee will seek to become the first Derby runner-up to win the Preakness since Prairie Bayou was victorious at Pimlico in 1993.Since 1960, only Prairie Bayou, Bally Ache (1960) and Summer Squall (1990) were able to improve on their Derby finishes in the Preakness.

Trainer Simon Callaghan is hopeful that Firing Line will be able to make up the length that separated him and American Pharoah in the Derby.

“I like the way our horse is training. Everything’s gone perfectly. I think that the race being a 1/16th of a mile shorter could potentially help us. We’ve got a good post and they have probably a tougher post, so I think there are a few factors that can help us turn the tables,” said Callaghan, whose trainee is rated third at 4-1 in the morning line.