BALTIMORE, Md. -- Hello and greetings from Pimlico Race Course where we've been racing since 10:45 a.m. this morning on the longest day of racing of the calendar year. The stakes portion of the card is underway and the infield is full as we've been through six races on the card.
The rain has held off so far and it's cool and cloudy at Old Hilltop. Speed has been holding so far and there have been no big surprises on the undercard. I visited the Derby champion this morning and he was nibbling on the hay outside of traditional stall No. 40 in the Pimlico Preakness barn. Orb seemed to have his appetite and trainer Shug McGaughey sat relaxing knowing a big day lays ahead of him.
I spent an hour in the infield earlier and it is quite the scene with thousands partying and enjoying the music being played. Last year's infield handle was north of $3 million, so a few folks will also be wagering while enjoying the carnival-like atmosphere. HorseplayerNow has a tent set up for racing beginner's and I visited with handicapper Brian Nadeau earlier who said business has been brisk in the Racing 101 tent.
If you've never been to the Preakness, it's a must-see. There's not many places in America that have the mix of crowd that Pimlico brings together. The main acts on the infield are Pitbull and Macklemore (yes, I have no idea who that is) and you can hear the roars from outside the stage up here in the press box.
But we're ready for racing and we're live in a Pick-3 into the second leg in Race 7 where we have 1-Notacatbutallama, 6-Shining Copper and 10-Redwood Kitten, let's get this next leg home.
2:45 p.m.: Well then, if you boxed my top three you nailed the trifecta(the $2 tri paid $102) as the $100K James Murphy finished 10-6-1, with Redwood Kitten ($6.80) wiring the field in the one mile turf race. It also keeps us alive in a fairly chalky Pick-3 wager to 3-Moon Philly, 5-Sea Island, 6-Summer Applause and 7-Brushed By A Star. The will-pays for the $0.50 bet paying from $19 on the favorite 6-Summer Applause to $54.90 on 5-Sea Island. Only the 4-Daydreamin Gracie can beat us here.
2:55 p.m.: The Grade 3 Allaire Dupont Distaff is next which also starts the Pick-5 jackpot into the Preakness, if you're so inclined. Chad Brown has Johnny V up on the favorite Summer Applause who comes out of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn where she finished fourth behind the winner, who was the runner-up on Oaks Day On Fire Baby in the La Troienne won by Authenticity.
I'm rooting for the 5-Sea Island which is owned by Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey, both with a bigger rooting interest later this afternoon with a horse named Orb. Speaking of Orb, the current Preakness odds show him at 4-5. In case you missed my Preakness advance in this morning's paper, here is the link to it.
3:25 p.m.: 6-Summer Applause ($5.20) was much the best in the Dupont, holding off a late charging Sea Island. We cash a ticket which covers our next bet and move on. By the way, a heavy mist has enveloped Pimlico as feared before the day began. Let's hope it passes through quickly as we are just short of three hours until the Preakness.
3:40 p.m.: The Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares is up next going 8-1/2 furlongs on the turf course. We'll get a Pick-4 ticket started with four horses in the Gallorette. We've got 1-Hard Not to Like, 4-Samitar, 5-Old Tune and 9-Silver Screamer. I spend some time with Hard Not to Like at last year's Kentucky Oaks, she's a nice filly who should rebound off her last effort at Keeneland that was against tougher company. Silver Screamer is also a longer shot and gets Julien Leparoux, a great turf jockey in the irons.
It appears it could get a little messy in the infield with this heavy mist...last check of the radar does not show any green blobs (a sign that bad things are to come) nor does it show anything close by, so I'm hoping this will pass over or just lightly mist until the big race. It would be a shame if the first two jewels are marred by off tracks.
3:55 p.m.: In case you were wondering, Pitbull is in the house.
4:10 p.m.: Hard Not to Like had me fairly excited coming down the stretch, but she appeared to slip or take a misstep around the eighth pole and could not regain momentum to catch runaway winner 3-Pianist who paid a healthy $15.40 to win the Gallorette. Our Pick-4 ticket is dead out of the gate so we'll put in a Pick-3 into the Preakness for fun or eat this giant chocolate cookie served up in McKenzie's Pub in the press box.
The next race up is the G3 Maryland Sprint Handicap to be run 6-furlongs over the dirt course. Back in a few minutes to give you my thoughts.
4:17 p.m.: Funny (or maybe not so funny) story from this morning, I ran into Paul Moran, long-time turfwriter for Newsday who now freelances for ESPN, who is also a Buffalo native who has retired to Saratoga. After exchanging pleasantries during our security search and elevator ride he told me that ESPN asked him to be available in case there was a terrorist attack at Pimlico today. Whoa. Certainly that puts things into perspective in what you have to think about when covering a sporting event. He likes Orb, by the way.
4:30 p.m.: In the Maryland Sprint I'm going to try a four-horse exacta box and try and catch a price with two of my longer shots. We'll box 1-Action Andy (6-1), 3-Manito (10-1), 4-Hardened Wildcat (4-1) and 10-Sage Valley (5-2).
Some folks from the NYRA media office just passed out a list of Belmont Stakes likely contenders that include aside from Orb, the following: Freedom Child, Golden Soul (second in the Derby), Goldencents, Overanalyze, Palace Malice (possible), Power Broker and Revolutionary (third in the Derby).
4:50 p.m.: The good news is we hit the exacta, the bad news is the 3-Manito faded with the lead at the top of the stretch and costing us $1.20. 10-Sage Valley surged by him at the eighth pole and 4-Hardened Wildcat made a late run too little too late. The rain has stopped and the track probably needed the moisture. The track appears to be favoring stalking horses so far on the undercard.
5:05 p.m.: We're 75 minutes to post for the Preakness and the Grade 2 Dixie is up next. I like 1-Willcox Inn (6-1) and will play him across the board. I'll also throw a $2 show bet on 13-Forte de Marmei who ran third in the Canadian International last October up at Woodbine in a solid field. McGuaghey and Phipps Stable have the current second choice 4-Imaging with Javier Castellano up.
5:20 p.m.: There are a number of storylines that could result out of today's Preakness. Rosie Napravnik could become the first female rider to win the Preakness aboard Mylute. Kevin Krigger with a win on Goldencents would be the first for an African-American in 115 years (1898). D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert are both looking for their sixth Preakness win with Baffert trying to complete the first Black-eyed Susan-Preakness double in over a decade. Gary Stevens is looking for his third Preakness win and his first since 2001.
5:25 p.m.: The anticipation is starting to build for the big race. I'm planning on walking over with the horses from the stakes barn and over to the saddling area over on the inside of the track, so I'll be back with you after the big race with some final thoughts. I'm sticking with the picks in the paper and back-wheeling an exacta with Orb in second to protect against the upset. Good luck everyone.
1-Willcox Inn finishes second in the Dixie, which was won by 10-Skyring ($50.40) trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
6:40 p.m.: It's 6-Oxbow ($32.80) in an upset in the Preakness and the Triple Crown drought continues. Stevens wins his third Preakness and puts a cherry on top of his comeback after a 7-year retirement, riding a brilliant race stealing it on the front end. Orb, the Triple Crown hopeful finished fourth. D. Wayne Lukas finished the day with the double that paid $279 for a $1 Off to work on my post-race commentary, I hope you enjoyed following along today. Back for the Belmont!
-- Gene Kershner