Tag Archives: Preakness Stakes

Preaking Out – Part 1: The Beginning

The days of Lookin At Lucky's colors adorning the Pimlico Race Course weather vane were numbered in the days prior to the Preakness Stakes.

If “The Hangover” series of films taught the world anything, it’s that the best parties are the ones that take weeks to get your life back together afterward.

As arguably the biggest party on the racing calendar, the events surrounding the 2011 Preakness Stakes could definitely find themselves in that conversation.

This is the excuse I’m going with to explain my dithering in writing my Preakness weekend retrospective. When you’re running with the Wolfpack, there isn’t always time to write.

It took a grand total of 17 hours on the road to get from Michigan to Baltimore, factoring in a detour to Lexington to carpool the rest of the way with Thoroughbred Times editor Ed DeRosa. I was working as something of a utility man for the publication during the Preakness and the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale that followed.

After a trip through eastern Kentucky, West Virginia (which reminds me of Montana if everyone was really into pollution) and western Maryland, we arrived in Baltimore a few hours before the Preakness post position draw.

This trip marked my first visit to Pimlico Race Course, and Maryland in general, so the track layout was uncharted territory on my internal map. Fortunately, the first sight that fell before me as I walked on the property was the Preakness stakes barn. All of the horses shipping in to run in the Preakness were under one roof. After spending the aftermath of last year’s Kentucky Derby roaming Churchill Downs’ expansive backstretch seeking quotes from connections, a barn like this was a boon for a lazy journalist such as myself. What a beautiful building it was.

The plant itself was not quite as beautiful. Pimlico has typically gotten a bad rap for not aging well, and it is not entirely unwarranted. The facilities had definitely seen better days, even after the obligatory “Preakness Cleanup”.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of this was the media elevator, which used technology that probably pre-dated anyone on the grounds. It didn’t smell the best, either, but employees seemed to blame a fresh coat of paint for that. Personally, I have never experienced a paint with that particular odor, but it made me feel sorry for the elevator attendant.

The elevator led to the press box on the top floor. More so than Churchill Downs or Keeneland Race Course (I haven’t worked in a lot of press boxes, okay?), the Pimlico box is the closest I have come to what the average person might imagine a racetrack press box to be – rows upon rows of desks pointing toward nothing in particular, where everybody is within shouting distance and nothing is shiny. If one removed the HDTVs from the walls and replaced the laptops with typewriters, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume the reporters were covering a race decades ago instead of in the present day.

Initially, I was a little turned off by the press box. Mind you, I am a small track guy, so it was not that it wasn’t “nice” enough. Where I come from, we don’t even have press boxes. I was just underwhelmed for a track hosting one of the world’s most important races. However, once I figured out what parts of the desks to avoid, lest I get splinters, I eventually learned to embrace the Pimlico media room. By the end of the weekend, I even grew to like it a bit. Further proof that I should never trust my first impression on anything.

Prior to the Preakness draw, I headed back to the stakes barn to film any potential contenders that should arrive as they exit their trailers. The best I could find was the trailer of D. Wayne Lukas, who had fringe contender Saratoga Red. Barring some kind of major surprise, the horse wasn’t going to draw into the race, so he wasn’t a terribly high priority.

As the Lukas horses unloaded, the trainer came over and chatted with the members of the media waiting outside his barn. He spun a tale to them about a time when he was not allowed in the paddock of a major racetrack (which I choose to remain unnamed to protect everyone involved) after handing out all of his paddock passes. Apparently, some security guards don’t recognize a hall-of-fame trainer when they see one.

After Lukas headed on his way, I checked my phone and saw that the draw was about to start, so I hi-tailed it to the infield.

I had my camera in tow from this point on, so I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. The rest of the story can be found behind the jump…

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Filed under Racetrack Visits, Story Time, Triple Crown

The Haiku Handicapper: 2011 Preakness Stakes

I am on-site in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes, so this site might get neglected for a bit, but until then, here is something to fill the gap. Enjoy the race!

#1 – Astrology
Runs in memory
Of late owner Jess Jackson
Could sneak on tickets

#2 – Norman Asbjornson
Penn-bred new shooter
Enters with field’s coolest name
And that’s about it

#3 – King Congie
Sentimental name
Faces same synth-to-dirt doubts
Derby winner quashed

#4 – Flashpoint
Quick starting’s the theme
Didn’t handle two turns great
Wait for summer sprints

#5 – Shackleford
Nearly wired ’em
In a crawling-paced Derby
Hard to follow up

#6 – Sway Away
Derby’s last horse out
His best work came at one turn
Hold for state derbies

#7 – Midnight Interlude
A big Derby dud
Bouncing back’s his biggest test
Should take some money

#8 – Dance City
A fresh challenger
Sambaed up the class ladder
Poised for big effort

#9 – Mucho Macho Man
Third in the Derby
Yet to turn in a clunker
Is a bounce looming?

#10 – Dialed In
Added incentive
5.5 million bones is
A spicy meatball

#11 – Animal Kingdom
The Derby winner
Becomes even scarier
With dirt questions dashed

#12 – Isn’t He Perfect
New Yorker ships down
Non-factor against real foes
He’s an afterthought

#13 – Concealed Identity
Took the local prep
This isn’t an overnight
He’s up against it

#14 – Mr. Commons
Rising West Coaster
Takes class, distance jumps in stride
Live for exotics

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Which runner Preaks out?
Dialed In cashes the check
Eight and eleven

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Preakness Stakes Recap

Lucky bests the Dude
Finally gets a clean trip
Saver disappoints

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In other important news learned from watching the big race at the Mount Pleasant Meadows simulcast, opening day at the Central Michigan racetrack has been pushed back a week to May 30. Be sure to adjust your schedules accordingly.

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Preakness Stakes

Baltimore’s crown jewel
Maryland, my Maryland
Is “Saver” super?

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#1 – Aikenite
A Derby shut-out
Does best work in mid-tier stakes
Wait for Penn. Derby

#2 – Schoolyard Dreams
Has one on the champ
Tends to run into buzzsaws
Something to prove here

#3 – Pleasant Prince
Sunshine-bred and based
Scrambled for earnings but failed
Not too keen on him

#4 – Northern Giant
Ran well in weak preps
Crumpled against top rivals
There are better spots

#5 – Yawanna Twist
Lightly-raced prospect
Better fit in Peter Pan
Has yet to blossom

#6 – Jackson Bend
Mid-pack in Derby
Training well into this race
Could provide value

#7 – Lookin At Lucky
Nightmare trip last out
Parts ways with Garrett Gomez
Not lookin’ for much

#8 – Super Saver
The Derby winner
Could take to the front early
Will be in the mix

#9 – Caracortado
Hard-trying Cal horse
Played catch-up in last two starts
The field’s wild card

#10 – Paddy O’Prado
Off two big efforts
Romans has him dialed in
Primed for breakout race

#11 – First Dude
Dale Romans’ Plan B
Troubled trips look deceptive
Exotic buster?

#12 – Dublin
Gomez takes the mount
Could provide a needed spark
Just seems to lack “it”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who gets his Preak on?
Paddy spoils Triple Crown
Eight and eleven

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The Haiku Handicapper: Preakness Stakes Recap

The filly did it
Top two proved they are legit
Who wants a rematch?

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Something to note: In a race that’s purpose, as defined by Rachel Alexandra’s former co-owner Dolphus Morrison, is “to showcase the future stallions of our industry,” the top two finishers were a filly and a gelding. Nice.

While looking through Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra’s pps, I noticed she  finished second in last year’s Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race I saw in person. I quickly searched my photo archives and found I had a couple pictures of her. Neither of them are exactly Eclipse-quality, but it is the first time to my recollection that I photographed a horse before he or she broke through to the big time. Enjoy!

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The Haiku Handicapper: The 2009 Preakness Stakes

The Crown’s second jewel
Most Rachel drama since “Friends”
Should make good watching

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#1 – Big Drama
Does well off long breaks
Will duel for lead, but can last
Shooter with a shot

#2 – Mine That Bird
Historic upset
Best horse or opportunist?
No Borel, no chance

#3 – Musket Man
A pleasant surprise
Answered class, distance questions
As live as any

#4 – Luv Gov
Best name in the field
Took ten starts to break maiden
Would be a huge shock

#5 – Friesan Fire
Derby’s biggest bust
In-race hoof woes a concern
Has he recovered? 

#6 – Terrain
Wisely skipped Derby
Globetrotter on eighth new track
An exotic threat

#7 – Papa Clem
Off two big efforts 
Almost always a factor
Is a bounce looming?

#8 – General Quarters
A minor letdown
Rough trip in race, ride to track
Was Blue Grass his peak? 

#9 – Pioneerof The Nile
Hey, he handles dirt!
Great trip, ran into buzzsaw
Will be tough to beat 

#10 – Flying Private
Crossed the wire last
Lane’s End now an afterthought
Doesn’t look likely 

#11 – Take The Points
Passed on the big dance
Second tier on the west coast
Middle of the pack 

#12 – Tone It Down
A local entry
Could draft Mine That Bird on rail
Too much here to beat 

#13 – Rachel Alexandra
The filly phenom
Stallion showcase gains intrigue
Talent should trump post

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who cashes tickets?
Zayat only needed one
Place: thirteen, Show: one

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