Originally Published: June 6, 2015 6 a.m.
Will he or won't he? That's the question millions of fans get answered today while watching a spectacular 3-year-old colt race for one of sport's rarest achievements.
The eyes of the world are on American Pharoah when he meets seven other thoroughbreds from post 5 at Belmont Park's starting gate with the Triple Crown at stake. American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in the past five weeks, and is the heavy favorite (3-5 odds) to win at Belmont today. If he does, he'll become the first horse to sweep all three races since Affirmed pulled off the rarity in 1978. Thirteen horses have tried since (including recently; today will mark the third time in four years we have a hopeful), but their attempts ended in heartbreak.
The excitement of horse racing's magical day is bittersweet for those of us in the Prescott area. It's another reminder that the sport's rich history here is indeed just that - history.
Pari-mutuel horse racing in Prescott dates back to 1939, and both past local tracks - Prescott Downs and Yavapai Downs - each had a colorful claim to the sport. I mean, seriously, who among us didn't at least once sneak away for a couple afternoon post times when jockeys owned the place at the old Prescott Downs on Rodeo Drive?
Long ago, a teenage jockey, Jerry Cawthron, had 21 first-place finishes in 13 days during the 1957 meet. Jockey Vince Guerra was about the most consistent in the saddle with a number of his 22,000-plus career starts coming in Prescott, along with his regular smile and wave to the crowd. As you can read in today's sports section, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert started his epic career out at Prescott Downs. Today, that's his horse, American Pharoah, making a run at history.
Pharoah, the charismatic contender with a misspelled name, hasn't lost a race since September of 2014. He's won all four of his 2015 starts so far by a combined 22-1/4 lengths.
With a post time scheduled for 3:50 p.m. Arizona time, American Pharoah has a shot. It's one thing to have a few bucks bet on a favorite in the 11th race, but capturing our imagination over 12 furlongs doesn't come around very often.
- Steve Stockmar, sports editor
Follow Steve Stockmar on Twitter @CourierSports. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1106, email@example.com or 928-420-5351.