Dallas Stewart is no stranger to overcoming large odds heading into a Triple Crown race.
In fact, he jokes it may be his specialty.
“From the outside looking in, you might say ‘How does this guy keep doing it?’ ” said Stewart, a multiple-graded, stakes-winning trainer. “I just believe in the horses and trust what I see in them.”
Stewart will be looking to beat the odds once again Saturday in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes with Tale of Verve, who finished in second place at the Preakness Stakes on May 16.
The Charles Fipke-owned colt will be one of seven horses looking to beat the overwhelming odds and take down Triple Crown contender American Pharaoh, who boasts back-to-back impressive wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
With a win Saturday, American Pharaoh will become the 12th Triple Crown champion and the first to reach that accomplishment since Affirmed pulled it off in 1978.
“There’s no doubt, (American Pharaoh) ran a really good race at the Preakness. That’s a really impressive horse,” Stewart said. “But with anytime there’s a possible Triple Crown winner, there’s a lot of anticipation and a lot of pressure heading into that final race.
“We just hope we can sneak in with a good race and shock a few people.”
American Pharaoh won the Preakness by an overwhelming seven lengths, but coming in second at the end of the race — after falling in the back of the pack early — was Tale of Verve.
Stewart viewed it as confirmation for what he saw in Tale of Verve all along.
“When he was losing those races in New Orleans, I kept telling people the races weren’t long enough for him,” Stewart said. “Once we got to see him run 1 1/16 miles, we thought he got through it without any issue. As we continued to increase the length of his races, he looked better and better. He can finish strong once he gets himself going.”
While trying to foil American Pharaoh’s bid to make horse racing history, Stewart’s greatest challenge may be finding a way to overcome his own personal history with horses like Tale of Verve.
While Stewart’s “specialty” has led to him guiding four horses with 25-1 or worse odds since 2008 — including Tale of Verve — to top three finishes in Triple Crown races, all four of those were second places. He’s never had any of his horses win one of the three legs of the Triple Crown.
Stewart’s wife, Yvette, even joked in a recent New York Times article that Dallas might have a case of “that seconditis.”
“No doubt, you wake up every morning, and it motivates you to do your work with a purpose,” Stewart said. “I’m very proud of everything those horses accomplished, and I don’t want to make it seem like we weren’t proud of what they did. Finishing one, two or three in any Triple Crown race is a great accomplishment. But it would be special to come away with a win here.”
According to many of the early projections, despite his second place at the Preakness, Tale of Verve is expected to be among the bottom four contenders for the Belmont Stakes, with odds most likely exceeding the 25-1 mark Stewart has overcome before.
According to early oddsmakers, it would truly be an astonishing accomplishment for any of the other contenders to take down American Pharaoh in his pursuit to place his name among the in horse racing greats. But if Stewart and Tale of Verve were the ones to pull of that accomplishment, it would truly be one for the record books.