by Frank Smith
American Pharoah was the last horse to achieve the Triple Crown in American horse racing when he won all three of the major events in the 2015 season. The bay colt was a truly exceptional competitor and brought glory for legendary trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert has another strong contender on his hands that could emulate the success of American Pharoah. Justify has the quality to match the accomplishments of his predecessor and is backed in the latest odds provided by Betway at 100/30 as of May 1st 2018 to secure the victory at the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby.
American Pharoah’s triumphs were historic, becoming the first horse to pull off the feat since Affirmed in 1978, highlighting the challenge ahead of Justify. Only 12 horses have managed to win the Triple Crown. Its company are the elite of the American horse racing, and we’ll now break down whether another one of Baffert’s horses is capable of joining the class by analysing American Pharoah’s run to glory.
American Pharoah’s Early Dominance
The stallion had a poor start to his career, finishing fifth and well off the pace in his first race at Del Mar despite being considered the favourite. However, American Pharoah bounced back with a fine performance in his second outing, securing victory at the Del Mar Futurity by four-and-a-half lengths ahead of his nearest rival. He finished his debut campaign with another win this time at Santa Anita in the FrontRunner Stakes, triumphing by a comfortable margin.
He warmed up for the Kentucky Derby in 2015 with two dominant runs at Oaklawn Park. First claiming victory at the Rebel Stakes before carving apart the field at the Arkansas Derby, finishing eight lengths ahead of his nearest rival. American Pharoah entered the Derby with momentum at the Churchill Downs. On this occasion, he was pressed down the stretch, although he had the pace needed to pull away from Firing Line to claim the crown.
Expectations were high following American’s Pharoah’s triumph at the Churchill Downs. Baffert’s charge was considered the favourite for the event and he duly delivered with a brilliant performance at Pimlico. With Victor Espinoza in the saddle, the stallion took charge of the contest in the early stages and refused to relinquish his position. He pulled away down the stretch to clinch the win by seven lengths ahead of the field. History awaited at Belmont Park in the Belmont Stakes as American Pharoah aimed to end the 37-year wait for a new Triple Crown winner.
Once again the stallion was considered the favourite and Espinoza ensured that he, Baffert and his charge secured their place in history as American Pharoah put forward a flawless display. He pulled away from the field in the closing stages, earning the win by five lengths to wrap up the Triple Crown. American Pharoah enhanced his legacy in the closing stages of the 2015 campaign by triumphing in the Breeders' Cup Classic, winning the event by six-and-a-half lengths ahead of Effinex. Baffert’s charge will go down as one of the greats, but will the legendary trainer be able to put forward another outstanding horse?
The American horse has made a strong start to his career and could make a similar charge. However, his performance in the Kentucky Derby will make-or-break his charge. He is still more than capable of enjoying a successful season with a win in one of the three majors along with the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but history will be on the mind of Baffert. He won his first race in Santa Anita earlier this year, triumphing by a comfortable margin at the Maiden Special Weight. Justify followed that performance up with another confident display, finishing comfortably ahead of the rest of the field in his second outing.
His strongest performance to date hinted that he could make an impact at the major events throughout the campaign as he won the Santa Anita Derby. With Mike Smith in the saddle Justify was in rhythm from the off and delivered an outstanding display to pull away from the rest of the field, including Bolt D’Oro, to clinch the victory by three lengths. A similar standard of performance at the majors could see another one of Baffert’s charge secure the Triple Crown.