ELMONT, N.Y., June 7 (UPI) -- Bob Baffert has been down this road before and he knows that it can be a long and heartbreaking one.
War Emblem tries to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred history when he competes in Saturday's 134th Belmont Stakes.
It is the third time in six years that Baffert will saddle a horse in pursuit of horse racing's ultimate prize. He won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998. Both colts finished second in the Belmont by less than 1 1/2 lengths combined.
"The other two times were totally different. It was unchartered waters and there were always the little doubts that we weren't doing the right thing," Baffert said, "We feel like we've done our homework and we are ready for Saturday."
Some of the other trainers have done their homework as they try to stop War Emblem from becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Fifteen horses have come up short in the Belmont after winning the first two legs, including six in the last 20 years. The most recent example was in 1999, when Charismatic was upset by Lemon Drop Kid.
A relatively large field of 11 horses will run on Saturday. A dozen horses were entered on Wednesday, but Puzzlement, a 30-1 long shot, dropped out Thursday due to a bruise in his right foot.
A 20-1 long shot when he won the Kentucky Derby, War Emblem drew the No. 10 post and will move to No. 9 with the withdrawal of Puzzlement. War Emblem has been installed as the even-money favorite for the 1 1/2-mile race at Belmont Park.
"We're happy with the draw. We wanted to be on the outside," Baffert said. "He's a fast horse and from there we can dictate the pace."
Proud Citizen, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness, is second in the morning line at 5-1 and will break alongside War Emblem in the No. 8 post.
Peter Pan Stakes winner Sunday Break drew the No. 5 post and is third on the morning line at 6-1.
Baffert has welcomed all challengers, but a large field has been a disadvantage. In the 11 Belmont Stakes that have produced a Triple Crown winner, the average field has been a mere 5.4 horses.
The largest field for a Belmont with a Triple Crown at stake was 13 in 1971, when Canonero II's bid was spoiled by Pass Catcher. The largest field in the Belmont for Triple Crown winners was a mere seven by Citation in 1948 and Seattle Slew in 1977.
War Emblem has come up gold for Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who purchased the colt three weeks before the Derby for a reported $900,000 and put him in Baffert's barn.
It already is money well spent. War Emblem earned $650,000 from the $1 million Preakness purse. The horse will earn a $5 million bonus with a Belmont Stakes win.
"Everybody buys the Derby," the prince said recently. "You have to buy a horse or raise a horse in order to win."
Baffert has dominated recent Triple Crown races, winning the last four and eight of the last 17. He captured the final two legs in 2001 with Point Given.
The biggest threat to War Emblem in the $1 million race could come from Sunday Break, who stamped himself as a contender with a one-length victory over Puzzlement in the Grade II Peter Pan on Memorial Day weekend.
Sunday Break missed the Kentucky Derby due to insufficient earnings and trainer Neil Drysdale kept him out of the Preakness. Drysdale is following a course he took in 1992 when another of his horses, A.P. Indy, was scratched from the Derby with a hoof injury and was not entered in the Preakness. A.P. Indy went on to win the Peter Pan and the Belmont.
Gary Stevens, who will be aboard Sunday Break, has been on both sides of the Triple Crown fence. He was aboard Silver Charm in Baffert's failed attempt in 1997. A year later, Real Quiet had his Triple Crown quest ended by Victory Gallop with Stevens aboard.
Jockey Mike Smith never has won in eight Belmont starts, but Saturday could be his best chance when he climbs aboard Private Citizen.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has 13 Triple Crown wins, tied with Jim Fitzsimmons for the all-time record, and would like nothing better than to spoil the day for the outspoken Baffert.
"People have asked me all all week, 'Wouldn't it be great to see a Triple Crown winner?'" Lukas said. "My answer is 'No, not at my expense,'"
Medaglia d'Oro joins War Emblem and Private Citizen as the only other entrant to compete in each leg of the Triple Crown. The horse will try to bounce back from a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Preakness after a fourth-place run at Churchill Downs. Considered a strong contender in the first two races, Medaglia d'Oro is just 10-1 in the morning line and will have the No. 7 post with Kent Desormeaux aboard.
Post time is 6:10 p.m. EDT.