BALTIMORE, Md. -- Good afternoon from Pimlico Race Course and Happy Preakness Day! It’s the longest racing day of the year, in fact the first race went off at 10:30 a.m. this morning and there is a full card of 13 races, including five graded stakes races and two non-graded stakes.
Yesterday, with a decent crowd of over 32,000 racing fans, In Lingerie won the Black-Eyed Susan and Alternation took the Pimlico Special in the day’s two major races. InfieldFest has been rocking since 10 a.m. this morning, with bands scheduled to play throughout the day, including Wiz Khalifa and Maroon 5.
The big Preakness news yesterday was the change in the mount on Tiger Walk from Kent Desormeaux to Ramon Dominguez. Desormeaux failed a Breathalyzer test at Belmont Park yesterday and was removed from all of his mounts. Tiger Walk’s connections moved quickly to secure another mount for their Preakness starter. We landed on Team Valor’s Went The Day Well in this morning’s paper and we’ll use him as a key to most of our wagers on the Preakness. I’m also warming up to Creative Cause as a horse that could hit the board in today’s big race.
Mario Gutierrez has two mounts on the undercard before he attempts to keep I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown hopes alive. He raced on Camelia Rose in the third (on the turf) in the Grade 3 Gallorettte where he missed the board at 9-1, and has a mount on Boxeur Des Rues in the Grade 1 Dixie (Race 11), both for Reddam Racing LLC, the owners of the Derby winner. We’ll keep an eye on how he does in both of those races, being new to the track having only raced on it over twice (both wins on Thursday) in his young career.
We’ll keep you posted on what’s going on at the track (and the infield) throughout the day, in addition to playing some rolling Pick-3’s all afternoon. We’ll get things started with Race 6 (the $100K Chick Lang) which goes off around 1:50 p.m.
12:40 p.m.: Race 4 just finished and it included two horses that were initially considered for the Preakness, 4-Paynter and 3-Brimstone Island. They finished 1-2, dueling throughout the race with Paynter taking the honors for Zayat Stables, Bodemeister’s owners.
Race 5 is a 5-furlong turf sprint (not my specialty), so I’m going to lay off that race, we will report back after Race 6, the Chick Lang, which will be run over 6 furlongs and has eight horses entered. For Buffalonians, please note the 1-Scaramagna is owned by Crossed Sabres Farm, so you may want to make a hunch play. I also like 3-Innocent Man and 4-Laurie’s Rocket to challenge in this one.
1:55 p.m.: 8-Il Villano with Jose Luis Flores in the irons wins for trainer Susan Crowell wins Race 5 and pays $9.20 and completed the 6-furlongs ins 1:10.40. He wins over my two selections Laurie's Rocket and Innocent Man to complete a $1 trifecta that paid $28.80.
Race 7 is an allowance race turf route for 3-year-old fillies and mares. 8-Happy Choice is the 9-5 morning line favorite and appears to be class of the group for Pin Oak Stable and trainer Graham Motion. It's been rather chalky so far here at Pimlico with the highest priced winner so far being 3-1 winner 14-Wire Funds before Il Villano won the 5th at 7-2.
Race 8 is the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at 6-furlongs and kicks off the $0.50 Jackpot Pick-5. I'm keen on three horses, 7-Hamazing Destiny (the likely chalk), 8-Bandbox and 1-Immortal Eyes.
If you were wondering, today's lunch fare included baked ham, fried chicken and wait for it....crab cakes. When in Maryland....
2:05 p.m.: Wiz Khalifa is really loud. He's doing some serious rap in the Infield. The scene is pretty incredible. It's where prim and proper meets crowd surfers. I'm going to head over and see what's going on. If I don't show up in the next hour and fifteen minutes or so, please alert the authorities to put out an APB....we'll be back to look at the guaranteed $1 million Pick-4 before Race 9.
3:35 p.m.: I made it back alive. Barely. Actually, I watched the last two races from the Turf Terrace. Incredible viewpoint on the inside of the track between the sixteenth and eighth poles. I highly recommend it, should you ever attend the Preakness. You sit under a tent, there are plenty of televisions and you have a great view of the stretch drive.
We're putting a little Pick-4 ticket together and we'll start the James W. Murphy Stakes with 1-Easy Crossing, 2-Skyring and 10-Gold Megillah to get it started. I really like the 10 horse with Johnny V aboard for Graham Motion. Let's try and get through this first leg and get serious!
P.S. InfieldFest is in high gear. There is easily more people here today than last year. I'm sure the fact that Adam Levine (sp) and Maroon 5 is here, certainly helps the cause.
4:00 p.m.: Hello Skyring, thanks for coming. Oh yeah, that's 8-1 on the D. Wayne Lukas colt by English Channel with Joel Rosario in the irons. That's a good start to our Pick-4. We're three deep in the Grade 3 Dupont Distaff (1 1/6-mile race on the turf) with the favorite 2-Absinthe Minded, second choice on the morning line 5-Awesomemundo; and Pletcher's 8-Love and Pride.
If you're looking ahead to the Dixie (which has been my Achilles Heel over the years in the Pick-4 here), I went four deep with 3-Hudson Steele, and three outside horses ridden by accomplished turf jockeys, 9-Air Support, 10-Forte Dei Marmi (trained by Woodbine-based Roger Attfield) and 11-Casino Host.
Let's keep this mojo going!
5:12 p.m.: Well, that worked out just nicely, thank you. We have four in here so let's keep our fingers crossed. This is the race that haunts me, so you might want to play 7-Smart Bid who is lingering around 7-1.
5:24 p.m.: Take that Achilles Heel! We're still breathing in the Pick-4 as the Todd Pletcher-trained 3-Hudson Steele rated nicely for Javier Castellano and pounced at the top of the stretch to win going away. So we're live to two horses to the Preakness! We have 5-Went The Day Well (my pick for the paper) and 9-I'll Have Another (have to root for the Triple Crown, c'mon!). We'll give you the will-pays when they are released. Have to tell you that my heart skipped a beat when track announcer Dave Rodman said that Smart Bid was making a big move on the far turn.
5:30 p.m.: 50 cent Pick-4 will pays into the Derby horses are: 5-Went The Day Well ($534.55), that works), 6-Creative Cause ($416.70), 7-Bodemeister ($163.60), 8-Daddy Nose Best ($1,277.10), 9-I'll Have Another ($233.10) and 10-Optimizer ($11,932.45).
5:35 p.m.: Early odds for the Preakness: Bodemeister - 5-2; I'll Have Another - 3-1; Went The Day Well - 9-2; Creative Cause - 6-1. I played a $1 trifecta with 5,9/5,6,7,9/2,5,6,7,9 and an exacta box of 5,6,9. As you can see I've soured a bit on Bodemeister.
5:57 p.m.: We're 21 minutes to post and Bodemeister has gone down to 2-1 on the board and I'll Have Another remains at 3-1, with Went The Day Well drifting up slightly to 5-1. The crowd is definitely buzzing (some more than others) with anticipation of the big race. It's been a pretty hot day overall with temperatures in the 80's most of the afternoon. A nice breeze has been blowing though, keeping it so it's not completely unbearable for the horses.
6:05 p.m.: Well it looks like Bodemeister is going to hold as the favorite. Check back with us after the race for a quick recap! Good luck to all!
6:23 p.m.: Hell yeah! Folks, we have a shot at the Triple Crown!
6:28 p.m.: Start spreading the News, we're heading to New York City, baby! Will the 34-year drought end? Mario Gutierrez with a brilliant ride on I'll Have Another ($8.40) passing Bodemeister in deep stretch to win the Preakness. Bonus: We have the Pick-4 for $233 and the $1 trifecta for $35. I love this game.
That's a wrap from Pimlico folks, check out tomorrow's paper for my recap of the race.
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.