Seven may be a lucky number for Zayat's colt, for seven is the largest group of Belmont challengers taken down by a Triple Crown winner. Seattle Slew, who defeated that field, won the race the way many think is American Pharoah's best chance: he got out front early, set moderate fractions and simply cruised home. Affirmed, too, probably won the Belmont by controlling the early pace, though he faced a much severer test when Alydar hooked him after an opening half-mile in :50.
Given the size of the field and the length of the race, the starting position is probably not a big issue. The key for Pharoah is simply getting a clean break and a good position, whether it's in front or stalking a colt that wants the lead more. If he gets the kind of smooth sailing that was denied California Chrome last year, he will be dangerous. There will be fresher horses in the field, and there are two or three whose pedigrees suggest they may be better suited to the distance, but there are none with his kind of tactical speed -- and speed kills.