NEW YORK — American Pharoah galloped around the big Belmont oval Thursday before visiting the paddock where he will be saddled on race day. He will take to the track again Friday for his final tuneup. He is the heavy 3-5 early favorite to become the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown.

Before Affirmed swept the 1978 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, 25 years had passed between Triple Crown winners Citation in 1948 and Secretariat in 1973. Now it’s 37 years, with a chance for American Pharoah to make history and goose the struggling sport or become just another miss.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said Bob Baffert, the only trainer to lose the Belmont three times with horses that had won the first two legs. “I don’t even think about the history.”

American Pharoah and seven rivals will run the longest race of their lives Saturday. If there’s rain in the forecast, give the edge to American Pharoah, who romped to a seven-length win in the Preakness after a massive downpour.

The colt’s grand-sire, Empire Maker, won the 2003 Belmont, spoiling Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid. This time the competition seems committed to sticking closer to American Pharoah, whose preferred running style is up front, although he’s shown he can sit off the early pace and win.

“I want him to break cleanly and freely,” Baffert said, “and have (jockey) Victor (Espinoza) put him in the mode where he’s comfortable. I’m sure they’re all going to be pretty close together.”

American Pharoah’s California-based jockey, Espinoza, has experience in the Belmont, having lost two other Triple tries, with California Chrome last year and War Emblem in 2002.

“If he’s happy, it’s all going to be easy,” Espinoza said.