Preakness at Pimlico is headlined by American Pharoah
Ah, the elusive Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing.
The last Triple Crown champion came way back in 1978 when Affirmed was able to win three grueling races in the five-week time period in which the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes are offered to the owners and trainers of three-year-old thoroughbreds.
“Elusive” has been the by word.
A significant number of horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in the years between 1978 and now . . . but none of them have been able to add the marathon-like Belmont Stakes to their resume.
On May 16, the Preakness Stakes is back at Pimlico Race Course, a somewhat threadbare venue mostly known for its broad mistakes rather than anything it has offered the racing world in the last 80 years since Seabiscuit put it on the map in the late 1930’s.
The Preakness people even butchered their chance for goodwill when they couldn’t get Secretariat’s correct winning time in the 1973 event. Finally, after decades of excuses, cover-ups and fumbled public relations, Pimlico admitted Secretariat had broken the Preakness record and track record when he thundered past Sham to win the second jewel of the 1973 Triple Crown.
Few people accepted the attempt at recovering a last vestige of dignity by Pimlico.
After the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, too many racing figures and even the general public are uncomfortable with coming to Baltimore and Pimlico. They’d just as soon go on to New York and Belmont Park, home of the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes.
But to win the Triple Crown, Pimlico must be endured.
This year, American Pharoah, a one-length winner over Firing Line in the Kentucky Derby, is the only thoroughbred with a chance to win the slippery Triple Crown.
Bob Baffert trains American Pharoah, and he also is likely to also bring once-beaten Dortmund, third in The Derby.
Jockey Gary Stevens and his Firing Line are also likely to see the dowager-like Pimlico on May 16. Firing Line was a responsible second to American Pharoah in Louisville.
There were 18 starters in the Kentucky Derby and no more than 14 can start in the Preakness. However, less than 10 are probable for the race.
Also coming from the Kentucky Derby are fifth-place finisher Danzig Moon and sixth-place Materiality. Materiality likes to run from the front, but had a dismal break from the starting gate in The Derby and couldn’t become a factor after that.
Stanford was a late scratch in The Derby and could join the Pimlico Party in the Preakness.
Lael Stables, headquartered at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland will probably send out Divining Rod to be a local favorite if he is entered after winning his last effort in the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.
Trainer Jose Corrales has Bodhisattva primed for the Preakness, but could decide to enter a race on the undercard on May 16.
It’s Pimlico’s one and only day to shine in the racing sun. No longer are the Pimlico Special (won by Seabiscuit so long ago) or the Maryland Million given much attention by the outside world.
The infield is filled with revelers. The aged grandstand is filled with many nostalgic faithful who still remember when Pimlico had a little popularity and relevance.
Racing comes to Pimlico but once a year.
And too many people of influence or good taste would rather skip the trek to Old Hilltop and look ahead and claim their spot at Belmont Park for the elusive third jewel of the modern-day Triple Crown series.