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TrackNotes: Preaching The Preakness

It's been run one fewer time, but the first one, in 1873, was two years before the Kentucky Derby.

Its home, Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course, is the second-oldest horse track in America, 10 years younger than Saratoga and five years older than Churchill Downs.

The race is a survivor. And Survivor was the first winner, winning by 10 lengths daylight, not bested until Smarty Jones' 11-plus in 2004.

Beset by financial problems of the Maryland Jockey Club, the race was run in 1890 at Morris Park in Westchester County, New York, and was not run at all from 1891-1893. Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island hosted the race from 1894-1908. Back in Baltmore by 1909, it's been run ever since at Pimlico, which once again finds itself in financial trouble, with vultures circling around the race for the money, Pimlico be damned.

This second jewel of the Triple Crown is not named after a state, as so many derbies are, nor for a rich guy like August Belmont, as the third jewel is. It's named for, imagine, a horse, Preakness, winner of the Dinner Party Stakes, the feature, I'm guessing, on Pimlico's first day ever.

You look at the Preakness in the 21st century, my point of reference, and you see some of the great champions of the new millennium draped in the black-eyed susans.

Of course, American Pharoah in 2015 on his way to the breakthrough Triple Crown. California Chrome in 2014.

2009, Calvin Borel rode Rachel Alexandra to Kentucky Oaks glory then stunned with Mine That Bird in the Derby the next day. Preakness: "Rachel' or 'Bird?" "No question, Rachel, she's the better horse."

2008, Big Brown, and he really was a big horse just look at him, from post seven, thundered at Pimlico.

Curlin, say no more, in one of the guttiest performances of all time in any race, and this was the Preakness.

War Emblem, winner of the Illinois Derby on the asphalt covered with dirt of the last Sportsman's Park, just for the hometown factor.

If you don't watch any of the others, watch this one. Secretariat, most definitely with something on his mind, made a move for the ages on the first turn (at :57 he's out of the picture, at 1:00 pay attention to the famous blue and white checkered silks and blinkers number 3) that still drops jaws 44 years later.

As the legendary Moe Howard pixied, "I say Jasper, what comes after 75?" Puzzlement pause what? "76, that's the spirit!"

And the Preakness comes after the Derby, every year.

People now appear to be feigning it while listening to my poetic racing wax, and say "Oh, the Belmont?" Or puzzled, they have a strong feeling the Kentucky Derby is over. I say, no, it's the Preakness, the second jewel . . . Derby winner, new shooters, historical, and everything.

That's when I know I've lost them, lost them for sure, all of the playboys of the Western world, too large or too many for this niche I enjoy so much.

Luckily, there are a couple compadres who dig, and especially one who enthuses as I do. Picks, crafting wagers, all that. Liking a horse and betting on same.

Subliminal or spoken there's a Derby hangover, you get so worked up. I admit I feel it too; we got another game in two weeks. But for me, just how good is the Derby winner? That is a really fun question. Don't ever think Triple Crown, that's greedy. Prices, a new mix of horses, a track they'll never see again, just two weeks from the last race. Sounds like a tasty racing cocktail to me.

I've always liked the Preakness.

You get a few still angry with the trip they got in the Derby and want to show 'em. Some who knocked on the Derby door and seek this classic and why not. Then you have the new shooters, as they call them. A little-more-mature three-year-olds looking to make a big start here. At 9.5 furlongs, mile and three sixteenths for the record, it's a test of speed, with a little distance thrown in. How can you not love that uncomfortable staccato?

The track is "known" for its tight turns, but I once saw the Churchill oval superimposed and it looked nearly identical. I don't care. If you think it, and it seems that way, then the turns are tighter.

It's an old track, and you'll see the rickety rails and white picket fences on the outskirts that seem made to hide things. Pastoral? It's in town. I don't know.

This year's race?

Always Dreaming, the Derby winner, is 4/5 morning line and that's fine with me. Go at that price and I will try to beat him. Did you know the Daily Racing Form is calling the Derby track wetfast/sealed? WTF? It was sloppy/sealed! There is a difference, and when you wager . . . Why is the entire world trying to put the hoodwink on us?

Classic Empire, perhaps more talented, is 3-1 morning, and that might hold. Or not. He had a brutal trip in the Derby and did exceptionally well to finish fourth. Winner of the Arkansas Derby over two of these, even 2-1 or 3-1 would be decent.

I'm still intrigued by Hence, but the poop is that his closing style, as with others, may not pay, as the speed wills out. That's the the Pimlico Preakness stereotype, like Bear Weather. He's shown at times he can close, other times, no. He'll need to throw a career popper, I guess. 20-1 or better, he's worth $2.

Conquest Mo Money is the wiseguy of the race. He won a couple $100Ks at Sunland and lost to Hence in the Sunland Derby. He was a bit green in losing a half length to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. His 93 career best Beyer Speed Figure is decent, but what about the speed at Pimlico? 15-1 morning line, I believe he'll go 7-1 or less, watch the tote. I think 10-1 or more. He needs to prove it, especially with this crop of threes.

This isn't in order, so I still like Lookin At Lee. The running line for the Derby even says dream trip! Corey Lanerie parked on the rail and rode it. People are not convinced, citing that trip. At 10-1, I like him, but it's time to prove a thing or two. He seems to have the tactical speed, but he needs to show he can finish. He is why we call it gambling.

Term of Art. Nobody gives him a chance. 30-1 ML. He's already a hard knocking 9-2-1-2 record Having made a 20-point Beyer improvement in the Robert B Lewis at Santa Anita, losing to then hot Royal Mo and Irap. (Note: Royal Mo broke an ankle bone in a workout for the Preakness and his racing career is over.) He then has another eight-point Beyer improvement (92) in the San Felipe. Six wide into the straight, we now wonder about Tyler Baze. Doug O'Neill, no slouch, has Jose Ortiz, as hot a jock as you want, aboard, as much an east coaster as you want, so at 30-1, give or take, I'll take.

Gunnevera. Big name. Will take money, thank you. No thanks. He needs a rest.

Cloud Computing. No better name? I hate Merlot, I hate cloud computing. It's dangerous. They named him back then, I guess. He's another wiseguy. Inexperienced, but 20-1 or better, fly. $2. Chad Brown/JJ Castellano combo one to watch.

Wanna reason? Howza about Multiplier? A valiant head winner of the Illinois Derby on April 22nd, if nothing else, he extends at the wire. And the Hawthorne stretch is one of the longest in the country. He did an 11-point Beyer improvement (94), but I've heard it should be better because the Beyer boys thought the track was biased for speed that day. So, 99? 100? 101? If I'm trainer Brendan Walsh, I'm, lickin' my chops. Joel Rosario aboard? If you breathe a word of this to anyone . . . whisper and take the 25-1. And watch that video to hear the GREAT Peter Galassi announce.


Tom Chambers is our correspondent on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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