Only days stand between American Pharoah and the 2015 Belmont Stakes where he'll attempt to complete the Triple Crown, but his chances to do so Saturday are still in limbo heading into Wednesday's post positions draw.
While poor post draws didn't doom his performance at either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, the obvious step up in difficulty at Belmont Park could require some help from the draw in order to pave the way. American Pharoah may have been able to win from the outside at Churchill Downs and from the dreaded No. 1 gate at Pimlico, but repeating either of those Saturday will be a tough ask.
Let's take a look into what to know heading into Wednesday, as well as some pre-draw predictions.
Post Draw Information
When: Wednesday, June 3
Where: Rockefeller Center, New York City
Time (ET): 11:15 a.m. - 12:35 p.m.
TV/Live Stream: NYRA.com (membership required)
2015 Belmont Stakes Field and Odds
|Tale of Verve||20-1|
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated June 2 prior to post draw
Pre-Post Draw Predictions
1. American Pharoah
Save for an impossibly difficult post draw on Wednesday, a tough stretch of history doesn't look to be enough to usurp American Pharoah's Triple Crown bid.
You'll hear plenty about why American Pharoah won't win Saturday at Belmont Park. The three races in five weeks has been too much of a task for the last 13 horses since Affirmed in 1978 to overcome. The 1 ½-mile track only makes it more difficult, and having to go up against a stable of fresher, more rested horses is often the final kicker that prevents Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners from completing the trifecta.
As told by trainer Bob Baffert to Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde, much of American Pharoah's chances will come down to jockey Victor Espinoza: "It becomes a jockey race and now that you have more horses in the field, you're going to get a lot of people making runs at you, you know you're the target, and we understand that. … It's not going to be easy. I know we're up against it there, and odds are against us."
The odds aren't against American Pharoah in terms of betting, and that's for a reason. Few of the Triple Crown hopefuls that preceded American Pharoah ran such convincing races at Churchill Downs and Pimlico.
Based on how Espinoza was able to keep American Pharoah in favorable positions despite tough draws in the past, he should be expected to repeat history once more.
There's little doubt that the biggest threat standing between American Pharoah and the Triple Crown is in trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's stable.
Frosted ran brilliantly at the Kentucky Derby and would have been in line for a show finish had things gone differently out of the gates. He got bunched in the middle of the pack early on and could only emerge from it to finish fourth—just a hair behind Dortmund's third-place finish.
Just like he did at Churchill Downs, though, Frosted will have to put his best up against American Pharoah's. McLaughlin likes his horse's chances but admitted the favorite will have to have a subpar day, per Ron Mitchell of the Blood-Horse.
"We have to have an 'A-plus' day and he has to have a 'B' day," he said. "But it's a mile-and-a-half, it's a different race over a different track and we're here. We're as close to the paddock as you can get. So it's nice just to walk through the tunnel and be at the paddock."
Frosted won't have enough to overtake American Pharoah down the stretch, but no other horse should be able to muster up as much of a test. Expect Frosted to push the potential Triple Crown winner to the very end, only to come up a length or two short on the treacherous 1 ½-mile track.
Things never came together at the Kentucky Derby for Mubtaahij, but a new setting and five weeks off can work wonders for a horse of this caliber.
One of the wild cards in the Churchill Downs field, Mubtaahij ran his first race in the United States after coming over from Dubai, and it seemed to show. He finished eighth, 9 ½ lengths behind American Pharoah's winning pace.
Early returns from Belmont Park are promising for Mubtaahij, as he appears to be handling the track much better than in Kentucky, according to trainer Michael de Kock, per Tim Wilkin of the Albany Times Union.
"We are in a happy environment, the horse looks well," de Kock said. "He is handling (Belmont) the track a lot better than he handled Churchill Downs. He strides a lot better here. We don’t want to be far off the pace here, and we want to be on the outside."
Racing in an environment that is apparently suiting him better, Mubtaahij should be able to showcase his prowess much better than at the Kentucky Derby. A smaller field—just eight horses, as opposed to 17 at Churchill Downs—will also help him to run free.
It won't result in a run to the winner's circle, but it should be enough to get Mubtaahij a valuable show finish.