05/13/2011 3:13PM

The Big Pimlico / Preakness Myth


The good news is, we hear it during the two weeks between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness more infrequently with each passing year. The bad news is, we still hear it. Of course, we’re talking about:

Pimlico is a tight-turned, speed-favoring race track.

I’m not quite sure where this ridiculousness started. In my time as a racing fan – the first Preakness I was aware of was in 1968; Dancer’s Image, who finished first in that year’s Kentucky Derby and third in that Preakness, was owned by Boston sportsman Peter Fuller, and I grew up in the immediate Boston area – I know of only one Preakness that was truly affected by a speed bias. That was the 1982 Preakness, which was run at a point in time when everything that went to the lead at Pimlico won. In that Preakness, Aloma’s Ruler went to the lead, capitalized on the profound, but, in the grand scheme of things, temporary, track bias, and turned back the odds-on Linkage.

I know why this stuff is perpetuated. Some think – very incorrectly – that saying this makes them look smart.

Anyway, this myth should have been vanquished once and for all when, a few years ago, the network that was televising the Preakness at the time took an overhead photo of Pimlico and superimposed it on an overhead photo of Churchill Downs. The result proved to everyone with eyes that Pimlico is most definitely NOT a tight-turned track. In fact, the turns at Pimlico are virtually identical in terms of circumference to the turns at Churchill, a track that has never been known as a tight-turned one.

But like people who believe America’s moon landings were staged in a Hollywood studio, there are still some who need to be convinced that Pimlico’s turns don’t make it a speed favoring track. So in the hopes of moving a step closer toward laying this nonsense to permanent rest, what follows is a list of the last 15 Preakness winners, their running positions a quarter and a half mile into the race, and their margins off the leader (or leading margin where applicable):

Lookin At Lucky 6 – 3 1/4 5 – 5
Rachel Alexandra 1 – hd 1 – hd
Big Brown 3 – 3 3 – 4
Curlin 6 – 8 1/2 7 – 13
Bernardini 3 – 2 4 – 1 1/2
Afleet Alex 10 – 9 1/4 10 – 9 1/4
Smarty Jones 2 – 1 1/2 2 – 2 1/2
Funny Cide 3 – 2 2 – 1
War Emblem 2 – hd 2 – hd
Point Given 9 – 10 6 – 7 1/2
Red Bullet 7 – 6 1/2 7 – 7
Charismatic 10 – 6 10 – 7 3/4
Real Quiet 8 – 5 1/2 6 – 9
Silver Charm 4 – 4 3 – 1 1/2
Louis Quatorze 1 – 1 1/2 1 – 2

Gee, for a track that is supposed to be speed favoring because of tight turns, to have only two of the last 15 Preakness winners be front-running winners isn’t very good. In fact, while five of the last 15 Preakness winners were running either first or second in either or both of the first two calls of the race, seven recent Preakness winners were running sixth or farther back at either the quarter or both the quarter and half mile points of call.

So, let’s finally deport “Pimlico is a tight-turned, speed-favoring track” off to hoary cliché-land, where it should join such other gems as “class is the most important factor in handicapping,” and “time only counts in jail.”

Sharon More than 1 year ago
I had the exacta in the derby.....wish I would have bet more! Too bad Nehro is out of the Preakness, with the extra rest, he will be tough in the Belmont.
Ron More than 1 year ago
Read Andy Beyers my 50000 dollar year at the races and it will tell you how biased Pimlico used to be. Since the late 90s the track has played much more bias free.
DON H. More than 1 year ago
BG More than 1 year ago
Dancer's Image didn't win the KY Derby in 1968. In fact he never won the KY Derby at all. Forward Pass did. (MW - You need to go back and read what I wrote more closely. I wrote that Dancer's Image finished first in that Derby, which he did. I never wrote that he won it.)
John More than 1 year ago
All of the talk about all of the Preakness runners and no expert has a word to say about Astrology? $10 tri key Astrology w/ Dialed in, Mucho Macho Man, Dance City (who will wear down Shackleford and keep running), and Animal Kingdom (even though I don't think he will run a lick on this track). $200 exacta box Astrology, Dialed In, & Mucho Macho Man. I will take my $80 exacta and my $150 tri and run to the bank.
Mooch More than 1 year ago
John-Astrology getting the rail draw with his style of running kind of takes him out of the race. Smith better act fast when Flashpoint backs up suddenly right in front of him. I hope King Congie will be the first to come up on the outside of Shackleford in the stretch, after he starts to lug out I won't have to worry about anyone else. Dance City should rate and quit with Animal Kingdom closing late for 2nd. Anyone that throws down with Shackleford early gets a free van ride back to the stable, in which case will probably be Flashpoint while at about the same time the stewards conduct the inquiry on King Congie. What a mess.
Patty D. Foiegras More than 1 year ago
Hello Mr Watchmaker, I believe a previous commenter attempted to mention Prairie Bayou, the winner of the 1993 edition of the Preakness. One of the amazing things about PB is that he was favored in 9 of his 12 starts (in all 3 TC races by the way). So he was good and people knew it. On that day at Pimlico, where he cemented his name in the halls of history, he was made the 2-1 choice by the betting public - no fools there. And he came from far behind early, yet had the lead by the 1/8 pole. The time was considered slow, 1:56 3/5, and over 2 seconds off any sort of Track Record. Just a BSF of 98. Not that it mattered. Regrettably, Prairie Bayou broke down as the favorite in the Belmont. RIP
mother goose More than 1 year ago
Run the Preakness at Gulfstream Park four or five weeks before Derby. No one will remember the order after two years. Horseman would love it. Call it the FL Derby slash Preakness. Add the purses together it would be a huge amount. No twenty horse fields no college kids in the infield.
Ten Twenty Lenny More than 1 year ago
IF YOU THINK ITALIAN!!!........ Dialed In Why run his best race in the Derby when you can pick up,$$$$$$$ FIVE AND A HALF MILLION$$$$$$$$ !!! ....in the Preakness??? However if his performance was true in the derby, It's Animal Kingdom again.. Hell he just beat all these runners, and he's done everything asked of him prior...Only other horse who would have a chance at the shorter distance would be Nehro
Mooch More than 1 year ago
Lenny- I think given the choice Dialed In would rather have a Derby win over the $5 Million, (and why not go for both) plus just running a half mile in the Derby would hardly Guaranty him a win in the Preakness. Dialed In's last quarter or half fraction shouldn't be taken seriously as any horse that lags last with a non threatening finish is no big feat. You can't just run a half mile in these kind of races. I saw a $3,500 claimer get the lead for a half mile in the Breeders Cup Turf, (remember Rick's Natural Star?) hardly impressive. I use last fractions as well as early fractions in my handicapping but A better excuse for Dialed in would be that he just didn't fire his shot in the Derby, draw a line through the race then go from there.
Geeman More than 1 year ago
I wish you keep quiet about Pimlico, I have been cashing in for years....let those fools believe that it's like a bull ring....just keep on cashing in!!! I won big with Jockey Smith, who now adays is well known in southern Cal...but back then he was based in New York. He rode Predow Bayou, or something like that....who just missed in the Kentucky Derby... and won easily at Pimlico Racetrack. His sstyle was come from way behind. So don't educate them fools...let them find out the hard way that Pimlico is a regular track just like Churchill.
DENNIS JOHNSON More than 1 year ago
dance city & shackleford & flashpoint excellent speed!!!
Mooch More than 1 year ago
Dennis- Since I think my play will be Shackleford I am mostly concerned with Flashpoint, Dance City and also Astrology. If they give me too much trouble my tickets could be be torn long before Animal Kingdom and Nero start coming. I think Dance City & Flashpoint will (hopfully) have to play the stalkers roll along with Astrology. If they put too much pressure on Shackleford early or try and move on him too soon they will only be hurting their own chances. I really don't believe that the connections of either Dance City, Flashpoint or Astrology think they can win it on the front end just because they believe the Preakness is speed biased, but I am concerned about just how much respect they have for Shackleford and what their tactics will be. Dance City was a well deserved long shot in the Arkansas Derby. Before the Arkansas Derby he was "all out" to beat stablemate Cal Nation in a one turn mile allowance race at Gulfstream, while both of them were coming off a maiden win. Cal Nation came back to run last in the Jerome. In Dance City's maiden race he was life and death to win a photo from Pleasant Run, a horse that stumbled badly in that race and had to later break his maiden in a 50,000 mdn claimer, making Dance City not look all that classy. On the Other hand, Dance City beat his odds in the Arkansas Derby, the hard way, on the front end where he seemed to run against the grain while only getting beat less than two lengths by Archarcharch and Nero in a troubled effort. He will more than likely stalk. Flashpoint seems to be a quick sprinter and seems to possess more speed than any in here (for about 3/4 mile) but rated a bit in the Florida Derby behind Shackleford before finishing mid pack causing no problems for Shackleford. It bugs me why he's even in here, especially after a Trainer change with the new Trainer making some kind of change, maybe for the worst. Maybe the owner changed trainers because they thought that Flashpoint should of had the lead in the Florida Derby. In any event If he goes after Shackleford early he will be getting a free (or do they charge?) Van ride back to the stable. Astrology is from the same barn as Nero, so the visions of a rabbit appear in my head. Of course there are two reasons why they might not send. #1). Astrology looks like he has a shot at this on his own merits being he has never been out of the money in all seven starts, and is Graded Stakes placed in his last four races. #2). Using Astrology as a rabbit would be helping Animal Kingdom more than Nero as Animal Kingdom is a deeper closer (the hotter the pace the farther back you want to come from) and the last thing anyone should want to do is help Animal Kingdom. Shackleford's speed and being non-willing to stalk is his best weapon. The front end is his spot and he will fight you for it. That is intimidating to others knowing that they will not only lose the war but also the battle, long before the war starts.