Leading Off

Will it be American Pharoah or history?

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Stakes Pharoah, with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up, gallops around the track at Belmont Park, Friday, June 5, 2015, in Elmont, N.Y. American Pharoah will try for a Triple Crown when he runs in Saturday's 147th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race.
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Stakes Pharoah, with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up, gallops around the track at Belmont Park, Friday, June 5, 2015, in Elmont, N.Y. American Pharoah will try for a Triple Crown when he runs in Saturday's 147th running of the Belmont Stakes horse race. AP

So who is your money on for Saturday?

American Pharoah, the latest odds-on favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become the first thoroughbred race horse to win the Triple Crown in 36 years?

Or history?

If you read the Racing Form – sideways, upside down, in Cantonese – it says American Pharoah will win Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. The 2-5 favorite (receive $2.80 on a $2 bet) already has beaten six of the seven other horses in the field, and the one horse he’s never competed against is a long shot.

Easy money, right?

Just like in 1979, when Spectacular Bid was the 3-10 favorite to become the third consecutive Triple Crown winner, following in the hoofprints of Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. The horse was such a big favorite, trainer Bud Delp boldly predicted, “Only an act of God can keep us from winning the Triple Crown.”

Spectacular Bid, of course, finished third to a chorus of boos. We’re still not sure if an “act of God” caused Spectacular Bid to step on a safety pin the morning of the race or made rookie jockey Ron Franklin run him too hard, too early.

Since 1979, 13 horses that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness entered Belmont as the heavy favorite to win the Triple Crown. All 13 failed – some losing by a nose, one finishing last and one scratching.

So why is American Pharoah different from Spectacular Bid in 1979, Pleasant Colony in 1981, Alysheba in 1987, Sunday Silence in 1989, Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, Smarty Jones in 2004, Big Brown in 2008, I’ll Have Another in 2012 and California Chrome in 2014?

Maybe because streaks are made to be broken. Hey, if the Warriors can win their first NBA title in 40 years or Cleveland can win its first title in any sport in half a century, anything can happen.

Victor Contreras, (916) 326-5527, @sacbeevictor

Playbook

  • WHAT TO WATCH: Horse racing, Belmont Stakes, 3:50 p.m., Ch. 3. Heavy favorite American Pharoah tries to become the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
  • TWITTER CHATTER: “Who’s excited to watch history be made (Saturday)?” – @Bob_Baffert
  • ON THIS DATE: On June 6, 1998, Real Quiet was denied the Triple Crown when Victory Gallop edged him at the wire in the Belmont before a crowd of 80,162, second-largest in the track’s history.
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