By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - American Pharoah drew the favorable post number five for the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday when the colt looks to become the first Triple Crown winner in nearly four decades.
The Kentucky-bred colt is riding a six-race winning streak but American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert cautioned that the Belmont Stakes' gruelling distance is always a question mark for a 3-year-old.
"We don't know until it happens," Baffert, seeking to saddle his first Triple Crown champion in his fourth attempt, said after Wednesday's draw at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
"A mile and a half is a very rare race for most of those 3-year-olds, and for me. We just get him ready. And if he's great, he'll get it done."
Winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes is one of the toughest feats in sports, and has not been accomplished since Affirmed in 1978.
The toughest challenge for American Pharoah, who was installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite, is expected to come from Frosted, the Wood Memorial champion who is rated the 5-1 second choice breaking from the six hole under Joel Rosario.
Florida Derby winner Materiality, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby on May 2, will be on the far outside eighth post and is the third pick in the morning line at 6-1.
A sell-out crowd of 90,000 is expected to turn out at Belmont Park in hopes of seeing history. Thirteen times since Affirmed swept the Triple Crown a horse has won the Derby and Preakness but failed to reach the Belmont winner's circle.
THIRD TIME 'THE CHARM'
American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza, who lost a bid for the Triple Crown aboard War Emblem in 2002 and with California Chrome last year, said he was very happy with post five.
"I'm here again," he said. "I've come here twice and I'm feeling lucky this year. The third time is the charm."
Frosted trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was satisfied with the draw but said post positions will not affect the race.
"In a mile-and-a-half race, they will all have plenty of time to sort it all out," he said.
Also in the $1.5 million race are: Mubtaahij (No. 1 post, 10-1 odds), Tale of Verve (No. 2, 15-1); Madefromlucky (No. 3, 12-1); Frammento (No. 4, 30-1); and Keen Ice, (No. 7, 20-1).
Keen Ice owner Jerry Crawford said America Pharoah's rivals "owe it to history" to try to stage an upset.
"If American Pharoah can get a mile and a half on Saturday, all of our hats will be off to him," he said. "But, it's our job to do what we can to make the race honest."
(Writing by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)