BALTIMORE - Good morning from Pimlico Race Course for the longest day in racing! First post is at 10:45 a.m. and the last and thirteenth race of the day goes off at 7:13 p.m. It’s a sunny day here in Baltimore and it looks like we’ll start off with a fast track. Yesterday’s racing was highlighted by Post Time selection Royal Delta ($5.60) winning the Black-Eyed Susan by 2 ½ lengths over our third selection Buster’s Ready.
The Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom arrived at the Preakness Stakes barn this morning at 6:45 a.m. from the Fair Hill Training Center. The champ walked the shedrow before being led to Stall 40, the traditional home of the Kentucky Derby winner at Pimlico. We caught Animal Kingdom taking a bath this morning amid the numerous photographers and reporters.
Two other contenders were out and about early this morning, Dialed In looked very good as trainer Nick Zito bathed him. The Post Time selection Mucho Macho Man also looked statuesque and absolutely terrific as trainer Kathy Ritvo held court at the Stakes barn.
We’ll do our best to keep you up to date throughout the day on how the card is unfolding and how the track is playing. I am even going to venture over to InfieldFest to report on the goings on where a large crowd is expected.
The first stakes race is Race 4 the Grade 3 Allaire Dupont Distaff Stakes featuring Life at Ten and the 2009 Black-Eyed Susan winner Payton d’Oro.
10:42 a.m. Early Preakness odds: Animal Kingdom 3-1; Dialed In 7-2; Mucho Macho Man 5-1 and the other 11 horses are all double digit odds.
10:50 a.m. We're off and running on Preakness Day. Technique takes the opener with Edgar Prado aboard overtaking the favorite Boreal Forest in the stretch. Technique broke his maiden at Saratoga last summer, but went overlooked at the windows. Off to the infield for a glimpse of Kegasus, beach volleyball and a view of the races from inside the fences.
11:59 a.m. If you were wondering if I was abducted by Kegasus, I wasn't. The infield scene is already jumping with Hotspur on stage and a beach volleyball tournament going on. There are some folks betting. Race 4 is coming up and I have Payton d'Oro and Life at Ten on my Pick 3 ticket and backed up with a win bet on Check Point who could get the best of them in the Dupont Distaff.
12:15 p.m. Some nice Bob Summers stories have been recounted to me over the weekend. Jennie Rees of the Louisville C-J told me he would box the Hall of Fame trainers in the Classic races along with some other wacky bets. Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Picayune-Times told me they used to have breakfast at the Stakes Barn every Preakness morning over the years. You can tell he's definitely missed in the press box. I did tell Mike Gathagan, Media Director for the Maryland Jockey Club that I would try and maintain Bob's handle.
12:21 p.m. Upset in the Distaff! Longshot entry and the "other Pletcher" Super Espresso with Ramon Dominguez scores at 11-1 and with a juicy $24.20 win mutuel. The next stakes race is the $100K Chick Lang Stakes named after the gentleman who was the longtime general manager of Pimlico.
12:54 p.m. Dan Silver from NYRA just passed out some of the Belmont Stakes probables (not including Preakness starters). They include Alternation, Anthony's Cross, Jaycito, Master of Hounds (dangerous), Nehro (second place Derby finisher) and Santiva.
1:28 p.m. Toni's the Won ($10.20) nipped Perfect Measure at the wire in a photo to win Race 5 and gets me off to a good start in the Pick-3. Time to buy my souvenir (hopefully) $2 win ticket on Animal Kingdom!
2:45 p.m. Well there's an hour of my life I'll never get back. The "legendary" and controversial Preakness mascot Kegasus held a press conference in the infield and we only received one gem of a quote. "I have some advice for Animal Kingdom...put Ex-Lax in their mush buckets, you'll win going away." Speaking of Animal Kingdom, the latest Preakness odds show him at 5-2. Dialed In seems to be getting some play at 3-1 and Mucho Macho Man is the third choice at 5-1. We'll keep you posted as we move through the next three and a half hours until the Preakness.
The infield crowd has swelled throughout the day and the hot sun will no doubt do in some of today's revelers. The main band act, Bruno Mars, goes on stage at 4 p.m. One thing is for sure, there are not a lot of places to watch the racing, with only a big screen next to the Jagermeister stage and a few small TV screens within the betting tents. I don't think many of those folks really care about the racing as it is a fair-like atmosphere with carnival games, food tents and plenty of beer stations. Here's a view of the infield from the press box (with my thumb in it!)
3:00 p.m. Ventana gets the Pick-5 off to a chalky start at 8-5 winning the eighth race, the Maryland Sprint Handicap, for trainer Bob Baffert with Martin Garcia up. Those are familiar connections here at Pimlico, winning last year's Preakness with Lookin at Lucky. Time to handicap the Pick-4 into the Preakness.
[Update: Baffert was pretty excited about getting his day going with Ventana, "California sprinters are pretty tough. I've got to move them around. I thought it would be a good fit for him to come here. He's been working real well and there really was nothing in California. We thought it was a good spot for him and it was. And he ran fast. 1:09 4/5 is fast here."]
3:11 p.m. The Woodlawn Vase was just delivered to the winner's circle. The elegant vase was originally created by Tiffany and Company in 1860. The vase was assessed in 1983 for $1 million and is considered the most valuable trophy in American sports.
3:30 p.m. The Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap is up next (Race 9) as eight fillies and mares tackle the 1 1/16 mile distance on the turf. Shared Account is the class in here and is currently 9-5 on the board. If you're trying to beat her in here I like the 2-No Explaining and the outside horses, the 7-Desert Sage and 8-Dyna Waltz. The latter is interesting with her second try here in the States after shipping across the pond for Jonathan Sheppard. Ramon Dominguez is in the irons and already has a win on the undercard.
3:40 p.m. I hope you tried to beat Shared Account! No Explaining ($8.80) with Johnny V aboard take the Gallorette over the two aforementioned outside horses, Desert Sage and Dyna Waltz, who dead-heated for second! Shared Account finished fourth as the 3-2 favorite.
The Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes is up next for 3-year olds and up. I like 2-Apart (Al Stall's horse), 5-Ichabad Crane and 8-Colizeo, which make up the second leg of my Pick-3 ticket. The Pletcher/Velazquez combo has had a good two days so far and Colizeo is 4 for 8 at the 1 1/16 distance and the Distorted Humor colt should be a square price for horseplayers.
4:00 p.m. Updated Preakness odds, Dialed In has emerged (for now) as the favorite at 7-2 overtaking the Derby champ, Animal Kingdom who is currently at 9-2.
That didn't last long, must have been a big bet down on Dialed In that swayed the odds momentarily. He's back to 7-2 and Animal Kingdom has reassumed the favorite slot at 3-1. The Macho Man is at 9-2. It shouldn't be lost for hunch bettors that Macho Man Randy Savage passed away yesterday, so take note.
4:20 p.m. Apart takes the Schaefer edging out Colizeo and Ichabad Crane runs third. Looks like we were spot on with that short field. Garret Gomez was aboard for trainer Al Stall and owner Adele Dilschneider, the same connections that led Blame to a Breeders' Cup Classic victory over Zenyatta last fall.
The Grade 2 Dixie Handicap going 9-furlongs on the turf is the next race on the card. Paddy O'Prado makes his first start since his fifth place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November. Trying to beat him off the layoff? How about 5-Baryshnikov w/Julien Leparoux up or 6-Slews Answer (who looked awesome this morning at the Stakes Barn) with Rajiv Maragh in the irons. I also threw in 1-Eighttofasttocatch for a longshot play.
4:42 p.m. There's still 23 minutes to post (MTP) in the Dixie and Train is now rocking the InfieldFest. I'd say it's pretty loud over there and they have a huge crowd that has been getting larger as the day has progressed. There are now longer time periods between races to let everyone get to the windows, as is the case on the big race days.
5:10 p.m. Nice return by Paddy O'Prado who motored past Baryshnikov at the eighth pole to win the Dixie. Baryshnikov had led them all the way around before Paddy made his patented late move. The good news is I have a winning Pick-3 ticket in my pocket, the bad news is it only paid ten bucks. Worse things have happened. My predecessor used to say, "a bad day at the track is better than a good day at the office."
The 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is on deck. We'll stay with our picks from the paper and box our top four in exactas and trifectas: Mucho Macho Man, Animal Kingdom, Sway Away and Dialed In. I'll play another larger exacta box that includes Astrology and Dance City, two new shooters that I can see hitting the board. Remember this is the race where a newcomer usually breaks into the trifecta. Last year it was First Dude.
5:30 p.m. The top three horses remain unchanged on the odds board, and then 8-Dance City (10-1), 5-Shackleford (11-1), 6-Sway Away (12-1) and 7-Midnight Interlude follow. 2-Norman Asbjornson is currently the longest price on the board at 40-1. Sway Away's sire is Afleet Alex, the 2005 Preakness winner out of a Seattle Slew mare, not a bad pedigree for this race. I'm going to respect him. We'll be back after the race with some closing commentary.
6:36 p.m. Shackleford ($27.20) shocks the world with an incredible effort with fast early fractions by holding off Animal Kingdom by 1/2 lengths at the wire. He had an absolutely beautiful trip around the Pimlico oval sitting second behind Flashpoint early on. Animal Kingdom taking more dirt in the face than he did in the Derby had too much ground to make up and just missed after a valiant stretch run.
Another year, another hope for a Triple Crown dashed again.
I hope you had fun following along all day, it's on to final leg, the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
-- Gene Kershner