05/06/2014 10:37AM

Jerardi: Preakness plays unique role in racing landscape

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Singing My Way has won seven races in seven starts this year, earning $104,550 in the process.

There are significant races in the Mid-Atlantic in the spring, summer, and fall, races with great tradition and big purses. The Preakness at Pimlico, however, stands alone.

It is the first time we all get to see the Kentucky Derby winner run, and a shot at the Triple Crown is at stake.

This year, we are fortunate to have a truly exceptional horse who keeps running the same way race after race. The Derby was the fifth straight race California Chrome has put away at the head of the stretch. None of the speed horses can keep up with him. None of the closers can catch him.

Beyond California Chrome and the Preakness itself, “The People’s Race ... the People’s Party,” they call it at Pimlico, the Preakness is a scene. Even though it started in 1873, the modern Preakness really blew up 100 years later, in 1973, when Secretariat ran and the infield first took off as the place to be on the third Saturday in May.

The horse race certainly matters. The Preakness, however, is bigger than just the race.

::2014 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more

Next Friday, on Black-Eyed Susan Day, Pimlico will host the $50,000 Xpressbet Jockey Challenge. Every active Hall of Fame rider except Gary Stevens (a late scratch) will compete in four races, with points awarded depending on where they finish. Russell Baze (class of 1999), Mike Smith (2003), Kent Desormeaux (2004), Edgar Prado (2008), John Velazquez (2012), Calvin Borel (2013), and Alex Solis (2014) are scheduled to compete.

“Gary has been very selective with his rides since coming out of retirement last year and makes a conscious effort to limit his mounts,” Pimlico president Tom Chuckas said of Stevens. “He plans on riding in stakes races during Preakness Weekend, which take priority.”

The other seven riders have combined for almost 45,000 wins in North America, with earnings of $1.6 billion. Stevens and Solis, incidentally, are both closing in on 5,000 career wins.

Mounts will be determined by a drawing this Sunday, with points awarded for first place (12 points), second (6), third (4), and fourth (3) in each race. The winner will get $20,000, second $10,000, third $7,000, fourth $4,000, fifth $3,500, sixth $3,000 and seventh $2,500.

The InfieldFest

The Churchill Downs infield may be more crowded, but it is not as loud as Pimlico’s. The Preakness InfieldFest will feature hip-hop artist Nas and DJs Frank Walker and Glenn Morrison on the main stage.

Nas has 11 Grammy nominations, seven platinum albums, and top-five rankings on MTV’s 10 Greatest MCs and The Source’s Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. Nas has six No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, tying him with Eminem and Kanye West for second all time among rappers.

Singing My Way on a roll

Entering 2014, Singing My Way had run 23 times at Calder, Gulfstream Park, Belmont Park, Parx Racing, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Delaware Park, and Suffolk Downs. The newly turned 5-year-old had won six times and had career earnings of $108,644. He had won consecutive races just once.

In 2014, Singing My Way has run seven times at Laurel, Charles Town, and Pimlico. He has never been behind at any call and was a clear winner in the first six races before holding on to win last Sunday at Pimlico to go 7 for 7 this year. He has earned $104,550 this year.

Singing My Way is the California Chrome of the starter-allowance set, and he too has won at a mile and a quarter. He won one race by 18 1/4 lengths, another by 12 1/4. Add up his winning margins, and it is 52 1/2 lengths.