BALTIMORE — There are some obvious luxuries that come with conditioning a race horse who operates on a different level than his peers.
In theory, if you have the best horse, obstacles that thwart other runners should be minor inconveniences rather than harbingers of doom. Although his Kentucky Derby triumph saw American Pharoah deliver on every piece of hype lauded upon him, trainer Bob Baffert said after Wednesday's post position draw that Saturday's 140th Preakness Stakes will be the spot when he finds out how superior the colt truly is.
Baffert's nightmare draw scenario played out at Pimlico Race Course as 4-to-5 morning-line favorite American Pharoah landed in post No. 1 in the eight-horse field, with his Grade I-winning stablemate, Dortmund, alongside in post No. 2 for their respective tries in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Drawing the inside in an eight-horse field is a far more manageable challenge than had American Pharoah been forced to break from such a spot in the 18-horse Derby lineup. And given the ample speed that the son of Pioneerof the Nile possesses, getting the bay colt into a dictating position out of the gate shouldn't be in question for jockey Victor Espinoza.
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As much as Baffert loathes the inside starting point, however, seeing both of his horses land there while Derby runner-up Firing Line got the catbird seat of post No. 8 was enough to elicit laments from the man who has never lost the Preakness in the three times he has come in with the Kentucky Derby winner.
"I can't believe I drew the 1-2, of all draws. But I'm just glad I didn't draw that for the Derby," said Baffert, who has five Preakness victories total. "Sometimes you have to give a little. It's a short field, eight horses, so (American Pharoah) still has to break well.
"We have it (the post), we can't do it over. If he's the best horse, we'll find out."
The last Preakness winner to come out of the No. 1 post position was Tabasco Cat in 1994, and he was the first to do it since Bally Ache in 1960. Snow Chief in 1986 was the last Preakness victor to emerge from the No. 2 slot.
Both Zayat Stables' American Pharoah and Kaleem Shah's Dortmund possess early speed, with the latter setting the pace in the Kentucky Derby before finishing third.
From a strategy standpoint, Baffert says there simply aren't many options now for his duo. What he does feel is an absolute is that the two have to get away from the gate well and avoid the fate their stablemate Bayern suffered during his ninth-place finish here a year ago when he got creamed at the break by Ria Antonia.
"In the Derby, my horses never felt the other horses; they were out there rolling," Baffert said. "When you are down in the inside, the break is so important. There are really not a lot of tactics here when you're on the inside."
American Pharoah has won from the rail before, taking the Grade I Del Mar Futurity against eight others in his second career start last September 3.
Despite finishing two lengths in front of Dortmund in the Kentucky Derby, Firing Line was deemed the 4-to-1 third choice on the morning line for the Preakness, with the former the second choice at 7-to-2 odds.
Trainer Simon Callaghan and jockey Gary Stevens were bordering on giddy afterward, though, as Firing Line's outside position will give Stevens the ability to watch what the big two do at the start and see whether longshot Mr. Z will further force their hands by sending out of post No. 3.
"I think it's a perfect scenario. It definitely makes it tougher for American Pharoah on the inside," Callaghan said. "That's kind of what we wanted; it definitely gives us options. Now we have to run the race."
The inclusion of Mr. Z, 13th in the Kentucky Derby, in the Preakness field was a bit of a surprise as Calumet Farm struck a deal Wednesday to buy the colt from Zayat Stables and run him back in the $1.5 million race.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas joked that he has made a living "running where I don't belong" with regards to Mr. Z's chances. The six-time Preakness winning conditioner then offered a comforting thought to his old comrade Baffert.
"I don't care what gate you get. When you've got the best horse you've got to feel good," Lukas said. "He'll be all right. (American Pharoah) has got good tactical speed. He's a very good horse. We could see history made."