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Frosted can end 'Crown' bid of American Pharoah

Frosted goes over the track during morning training

Frosted goes over the track during morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 29, 2015 in Louisville, Ky. Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

On the track and on paper, he looks terrific. He's become an obsession of the mainstream media, his bandwagon is overflowing and thoroughbred racing awaits its 12th immortal.

Sound familiar?

Like Smarty Jones and Big Brown, American Pharoah looks like the darling of the racing gods, the chosen one to end the Triple Crown drought at 37 years.

"There's a really good vibe about this horse," trainer Bob Baffert said. "But I believe in fate. Maybe it's our time. If it is, it is. If it's not, it's not."

For the record fourth time, Baffert is on the verge of a Triple Crown. "It's a personal quest for me," he told HRTV. "Hopefully, the good Lord has been saving this for me. There's been some suffering."

His superstar couldn't be doing better, but we've been through this movie so many times. Starting in 1979 with another seemingly unbeatable colt, Spectacular Bid, 13 horses won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but not the Belmont. The ending always has had a different twist, but inevitably it was sad.

So it's time to try to figure out -- meaning guess -- what's likely to happen in tomorrow's Belmont Stakes. It's likely to be unpredictable, considering the last nine Belmont favorites lost and the last nine winners skipped the Preakness. Is American Pharoah so superior he can smash those two trends and stay 11/2 miles against rested rivals in his fourth race in eight weeks?

I'd enjoy seeing it, because sustained excellence is so rare in a world where mediocrity usually is enough to get by. But at odds that short, I can't recommend a wager on Pharoah. This essay is labeled an analysis, in which the head must rule the heart. When a horse is odds-on, there's no logic in gambling that he will overcome long odds.

Another potential problem is jockey Victor Espinoza's unfamiliarity with Belmont Park, whose 11/2-mile circumference makes it North America's biggest track.

Espinoza is only 4-for-67 lifetime at a unique layout where the home team has a big edge. John Velazquez, rider of Materiality, is a two-time Belmont winner based here for 25 years.

"I definitely say it's an advantage for us because we're there the whole time," Velazquez said. "You have to be really patient to ride the mile and a half at Belmont."

So, alleged expert, how will the race play out? Materiality, breaking from post 8, has enough speed to set the pace or press Pharoah if Espinoza decides to go for the lead. After seeing Pharoah lead throughout the sloppy Preakness, the other jockeys won't allow a repeat. And if the favorite goes out too fast, he won't last 12 furlongs.

Joel Rosario often is brilliant, but his Derby ride on Frosted was one of his worst. When they were 11 lengths behind and wide after 6 furlongs, they had no chance. A strong rally left Frosted a neck short of third, and if he'd been closer to the leisurely pace, he might have been second.

Frosted has a strong distance pedigree -- by top sire Tapit out of a mare by stamina influence Deputy Minister -- and should handle 12 furlongs better than the rest. Expect Rosario to keep the 5-1 second choice close up in fourth and make his winning move entering the stretch. Pharoah will battle on gamely but fade to second, with Materiality finishing third and Keen Ice coming from far back for fourth.

Jim Hill, co-owner of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, said: "I think it would be great to have another one."

I agree, but don't bet on it.

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