Racing: Favoured American Pharoah draws fifth post for Belmont

American Pharoah during training at Belmont Park on June 3, 2015, in Elmont, New York. -- PHOTO: AFP
American Pharoah during training at Belmont Park on June 3, 2015, in Elmont, New York. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah will break from the fifth stall in Saturday's Belmont Stakes trying to become the first horse since 1978 to win US racing's Triple Crown.

Post positions for the field of eight in the 1 1/2-mile, $1.5 million race were drawn Wednesday.

American Pharoah, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, will try to become just the 12th horse to complete the coveted treble and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

Since then, 13 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but failed to capture the Belmont.

"I'm very happy with the draw," said Espinoza, the first jockey to have a third chance to complete the Triple Crown after winning the first two legs on War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome last year.

"Third time's the charm," added Espinoza, whose mount was installed as the early 3-5 favorite.

Baffert has a fourth chance at a Triple Crown, having saddled contenders Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem.

Baffert said American Pharoah was training well after his Preakness victory on May 16, but he knows the 1 1/2-mile distance, rare in US racing, will see the Belmont live up to its moniker of The Test of the Champion.

"I think we don't know until it happens," he said of how American Pharoah will handle the longer distance. "I mean, mile and a half is a very rare race for most of those three-year-olds and for me.

"And so we're just going to get him ready and if he's great, he'll get it done.

"So far everything has been right on schedule," Baffert added. "There haven't been any setbacks - no hiccups - so that's the main thing."

American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby on May 2 by a length over Firing Line and two weeks later crushed the opposition by seven lengths in the Preakness on a sloppy track at Pimlico.

"I think it's big for the sport right now," Baffert said. "It's about the sport and the Thoroughbred industry. This is a time where people are tuning in to see if it can happen."

Frosted, a fast-finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, was made the 5-1 second choice. The colt, which skipped the Preakness, will break from the sixth stall under Joel Rosario.

Materiality, trained by Todd Pletcher, was made the 6-1 third choice after drawing the outside post.

John Velazquez will be aboard the horse that finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and also sat out the Preakness.

Pletcher, who has saddled two Belmont Stakes winners, has another runner in Madefromlucky, who won the Peter Pan Stakes on the same Belmont track on May 9.

"I envision Materiality being close to the pace and Madefromlucky mid-pack," Pletcher said. "I like being outside of American Pharoah. We're going to go into the first turn trying to make sure there's an honest pace."