06/08/2015 2:51PM

Privman's Belmont Stakes analysis

Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah became racing's 12th Triple Crown winner by taking the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths Saturday.

Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, 1 1/2 miles, Belmont Park, June 6, 2015
Winner: American Pharoah
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Owner: Zayat Stables LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 105

AMERICAN PHAROAH became the 12th Triple Crown winner, the first in 37 years, and only the fourth since Citation in 1948 with this dominating performance. He needed to gut out a victory in the Kentucky Derby, relished a sloppy track in the Preakness, and then, at the end of an ambitious campaign, left no doubt as to his superiority and deserving place in history with a 5 1/2-lenngth victory, his seventh straight, earned at six different racetracks.

American Pharoah was rocking back and forth in the starting gate just before the gate opened, and he got off half a step slowly, but jockey Victor Espinoza made the prudent move and sent American Pharoah to the front. When you’re on the best horse, you should dictate the way the race is run, and that is exactly what Espinoza did. American Pharoah was in front within a furlong of the start, and by the time the first quarter-mile was run, his ears were up, the sign of a comfortable, happy horse.

Espinoza always had a ton of horse under him, and American Pharoah clicked off successive quarter-miles in 24 seconds and change, one after another, a pace his rivals could not sustain.

American Pharoah was always going best, entered the stretch with a two-length lead, extended his margin in upper stretch, and then received a couple of mild backhanders from Espinoza midway through the stretch en route to the finish. He continued to gallop out well after the finish, as if the race – and the prior campaign – hadn’t taken everything out of him. Remarkable.

FROSTED, who finished second, actually outbroke American Pharoah – and everybody else – but then settled into third behind American Pharoah and MATERIALITY as the field entered the first turn. He raced between rivals and in some traffic around the turn and into the backstretch and dropped back to fifth midway through the race. He had to await room between horses when stuck behind Materiality with a half-mile to go, with jockey Joel Rosario forced to steady slightly, but then he slipped inside MUBTAAHIJ and came up the rail right behind American Pharoah with a quarter-mile to go.

Frosted got within two lengths of American Pharoah in upper stretch but could not stay with American Pharoah through the lane. He swapped to his left lead at midstretch, then soon corrected back to his right lead, and though he probably was getting tired from chasing American Pharoah, he did safely hold second. He ran well in the Derby, finishing fourth after being herded early and racing wide, and that followed his win in the Wood Memorial. He is a very good colt.

KEEN ICE, who finished third, broke last, advanced enough to wind up four paths wide entering the first turn, then stayed wide on the backstretch and found himself three and then four paths wide while moving around the far turn. He had been ridden fairly aggressively with four furlongs to go, but at the quarter pole, jockey Kent Desormeaux seemed to ride him more sympathetically. He dropped back to fifth nearing the top of the lane, then was steered widest of all by Desormeaux, who started riding with renewed fervor, and Keen Ice responded, closing well to finish third. Considering his trip and the lack of pace for a horse who is normally a deep closer, this was a good effort.

Mubtaahij, who finished fourth, followed American Pharoah into the first turn while inside Frosted. He remained on the rail until the far turn, where he drifted out to the 2 path to try to attack American Pharoah. He got within a length of American Pharoah nearing the quarter pole but could not keep pace through the lane while racing on his wrong lead and surrendered third in deep stretch to Keen Ice.

FRAMMENTO, who finished fifth, has no early speed and trailed around the first turn. He got on even terms with fellow straggler TALE OF VERVE while inside that rival at the back of the pack entering the backstretch, slipped through inside rivals on the far turn, tipped out to the 4 path entering the lane after advancing to fourth, but went one-paced through the lane.

MADEFROMLUCKY, who finished sixth, was angled outward in the run away from the gate and wound up three paths wide, in the second flight of horses, around the first turn and into the backstretch. He started to lose position down the backstretch and came under a ride with five furlongs to go, tried to rally while four paths wide on the far turn, but simply could not keep up.

Tale of Verve, who finished seventh, broke alertly but had no speed and was only in front of Frammento heading into the first turn while racing in the clear, a couple of lanes off the rail. He tried to advance while kept in the middle of the track down the backstretch but was initially outfooted by Madefromlucky and fell back to last with a half-mile to go. He had to steady slightly inside and behind the tiring Materiality nearing the quarter pole and was guided to the rail, but had no punch.

Materiality, who finished last of eight, was used a bit from his outside draw to be forwardly placed into the first turn and was closest to American Pharoah entering the backstretch after racing three paths wide on the first turn. He was just outside of American Pharoah, about a length behind, for much of the backstretch, began to lose ground with a half-mile remaining, had several rivals engulf him midway on the turn, then fell back to last by the time the field turned into the lane in a poor effort.