Triple Crown-Hopeful Facing 2 Fewer Rivals At Belmont Stakes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah arrived at Belmont Park, Tuesday as excitement builds for a potentially history-making moment at the Belmont Stakes.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the 3-year-old colt stepped onto Belmont soil, where thirteen others have come with high hopes and left with heartbreak.

American Pharoah, looked regal after a special delivery from Kentucky aboard a plane dubbed ‘air horse one.’

The question on everyone’s mind is will he finally be the one that can break the 37-year drought by earning that third jewel of the Triple Crown.

After an impressive final run at Churchill Downs, American Pharoah is in the home stretch of a run at immortality.

He wowed them at the Kentucky Derby and dominated the Preakness.

Now American Pharoah runs for a place in history.

If he passes the test of champions, he will be crowned only the 12th horse to do so. If not, he joins the heartbreak of 13 other also-rans.

But hopes are high for American Pharoah with champion blood and a stable full of veterans.

His thrilled owner Ahmed Zayat said he is running stronger than ever.

“He’s an incredibly good mover. His stride lengths totally effortless. He is like the Michael Jordan of racing. Literally floats over the ground. I don’t even think his feet hit the ground,” Zayat said.

The head of New York Racing Association says he’s got what it takes.

“I’ve seen American Pharoah in action now on a fast track in Kentucky, and a sloppy track — it was a deluge to be quite honest — at Preakness; he is the real deal,” NYRA President and CEO Christopher Kay said.

If American Pharoah can break the jinx, a nearly four decade drought, and earn the third jewel of the Triple Crown he will be the 12th horse to do so.

Meanwhile, the Belmont Stakes field is down to eight after two horses dropped out.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday that Carpe Diem won’t run Saturday when American Pharoah goes for the Triple Crown. Also, trainer Ken McPeek withdrew The Truth or Else.

Carpe Diem was 10th in the Kentucky Derby and will point toward the Haskell Invitational or Jim Dandy Stakes this summer. The Truth or Else did not run in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness and has an ankle issue.

That leaves seven rivals to face American Pharoah in his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Pletcher still has two other Belmont runners: Materiality and Madefromlucky. John Velazquez will ride Materiality, who was sixth in the Derby, while Javier Castellano will be aboard Madefromlucky.

“One thing about the horse, we know what to expect,” American Pharoah’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said on Monday. “We’re not going to be overwhelmed by it because we’re used to the big show.”

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Wednesday.

There is expected to be 90,000 on hand to cheer on the colt in the mile-and-a-half date with destiny.

“If you don’t have a ticket, don’t come to the park. Get your ticket right now. Secure your place for history,” Belmont Racetrack Spokesman, John Durso, said.

The Zayat family, Egyptian born American Jews who now live in Teaneck, said they’re nervous, but enjoying the ride.

American Pharoah may be a champion, but his name is spelled wrong. His stable said they don’t know who mistakenly reversed the ‘O’ and the ‘A’ in Pharoah. He was named in a contest.

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