It's easy to forget now, given his historic romp to the first Triple Crown in 37 years and his career-capping triumph at the Breeders' Cup, but American Pharoah came to Pimlico Race Course facing plenty of questions from seasoned track observers.
Sure, he'd won the Kentucky Derby as a prerace favorite, but he had to fight like a demon to put away his stablemate Dortmund and hold off a game Firing Line. He'd face both again in the 140th Preakness.
As post time neared, a line of coal-black clouds peeked over the grandstand at Pimlico, and a ferocious rain greeted American Pharoah and his fellow contenders. Gushing streams formed along the edges of the track, and patrons used their own folding chairs to cover their heads.
Then the race went off, and American Pharoah glided over the muck undaunted as the field crumbled behind him. He won by seven lengths, stamping himself the clear star of his 3-year-old class and setting up a date with Triple Crown history three weeks later in New York.