05/14/2014 1:46PM

At Pimlico, inside not the place to be


BALTIMORE – A first-time starter named Segovia accomplished something remarkable at Pimlico in the fifth race May 2. Segovia, last at the first call, rallied along the rail to win going away. And that was the remarkable part. Segovia remains the only horse this May to close along the rail and win at Pimlico.

For most of this month, outside paths have ruled a slow-playing main track, a trend that extends beyond the current meet. Recall talk of how Kentucky Derby winner Orb got bogged down on a dead rail in the 2013 Preakness. Departing was stuck there, too, and his subsequent performances proved him better than his sixth-place Preakness finish.

Even with several out-of-the-blue front-end winners last Sunday, early leaders and pressers have won only 21 main-track races this month, compared with 41 for stalkers and closers. During the same period, horses racing along the rail have won 18 races, two-wide winners 4, three-wide winners 18, and horses four paths and wider 21. That’s 39 of 61 wins for horses at least three wide, and outside stalkers have ruled this month.

David Whitman, the director of track maintenance at Pimlico and nearby Laurel Park, thinks the main track has played fair but concedes that the inside paths can be more tiring.

“On the turns is where it can get deep,” said Whitman, who has helped work the Pimlico surface for 30 years. “The turns are banked so much, the far turn especially so. Material can slide down toward the inside.”

::DRF Live: Reporting and insight from the Preakness draw 6-7 p.m. ET on Wednesday

Pimlico, like Churchill, is a one-mile oval. For years, the myth propagated that Pimlico’s turns were tighter than Churchill’s, but that’s incorrect: The Churchill homestretch is about 27 yards longer, meaning the Pimlico turns must be longer. It’s steep banking that distinguishes the Pimlico turns.

Being stuck down on the fence with rivals rising up outside, all the while encountering deeper going, renders undesirable the shortest path around the Pimlico oval, a fact reflected in the relative success of post positions. At the ongoing meet, posts 3-7 have been the sweet spot in routes, almost all of which have been contested at 1 1/16 miles.

Taking a longer view, an inside draw has spelled doom at the Preakness’s 1 3/16-mile trip. In the last 10 years, posts 1 and 2 have combined to go 0 for 34 at the distance; by comparison, posts 12 and 13 are 2 for 8.

Since 2011, posts 1-4 have produced no winners from 20 starters at the Preakness trip, while posts 5-9 are 5 for 22.

So, find a contender drawn from the middle out who can take up a clear stalking position. The track profile says you’ve found a winner.

jttf More than 1 year ago
the preakness rarely has an off track. risen star won on a surface rated as good.
thomas j More than 1 year ago
Are the REPLY buttons misaligned on anyone else's screen or just mine? Anyone else having problems?
John Tardiff More than 1 year ago
Mine are fine.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Take another shot.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Rick Marciniak More than 1 year ago
Track conditions can change with heavy rain coming in for Friday which could create a bias. I would watch the races to see how track dries out, etc. However, the info is helpful. Money to be made this weekend with some pretty good fields. Disappointed the Maryland Sprint came up with a 6 horse field.
thomas j More than 1 year ago
He was referring to all the races of the Preakness distance of 1 3/16. Not just the Preakness.
Professor Molesap More than 1 year ago
Interesting article but not sure how much I trust the data as I KNOW this stat has to be incorrect: "2011, posts 1-4 have produced no winners from 20 starters at the Preakness trip, while posts 5-9 are 5 for 22." Uhh..how many times do we run this race a year? Furthermore, makes no sense you would have more horses starting from the outside 4 posts compared to the inside 4 posts over the same time period unless I am missing something.
tim blake More than 1 year ago
...at the 'Preakness trip', meaning races at 1 3/16 miles. I'm guessing that means 3 Preakness and 2 others.
Highlander92 More than 1 year ago
Regarding the discrepancy in the number of starters, there is 1-more post position included in the 5-9 holes than the 1-4 which could account for the greater number of starters.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Meaning since 2011, there have been TWENTY races at the Preakness distance.
Sam Sung More than 1 year ago
You are correct, Marcus has missed something. First issue is he is saying there have been more starters from post 5-9, incorrect, they load the gate from the inside out. Second, Assume there have been 20 races at the 1 3/16 trip, If you have 0 winners from post 1-4 and 5 from 5-9, that means you have 15 winners from post 10 on??
DRFHersh More than 1 year ago
There have been five 9.5fs races (5 x 4 = 20 starters posts 1-4) since 2011: Post 1 0/5, post 2 0/5, post 3 0/5, post 4 0/5, post 5 1/5, post 6 2/5 post 7 0-4, post 8 1/4, post 9 1/4.
Professor Molesap More than 1 year ago
Ahhh...I figured I was missing something. Thanks for the clarification.
William More than 1 year ago
don't educate a dummy, dummy
Ron Rios More than 1 year ago
great info, thats all handicappers need, facts, current trends, more of this...
Stephen Mercier More than 1 year ago
good info thank you !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pimlico needs to be torn down and replaced by a new track or better yet a parking lot. I would move the Preakness to Monmouth, Santa Anita what a horrible little excuse to have a party at.
Rick Huston More than 1 year ago
you must not be a real horse racing fan.....there is a lot of history with Baltimore, Pimlico and Maryland racing....granted the track needs improvements...but horse racing is not all about parties.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of horse racing for the past 35 years and I understand the history. But when Pimlico is falling apart, the fans are drunk out of their skull due to the massive amounts of beer allowed either from coolers or even the all you can drink 20oz cups it takes away from the real reason we attend / watch from afar. The Preakness deserves better than what has been going on. Also havent you noticed that most trainers that raced in the KD skip the Preakness and head out for the Belmont? Also the Preakness has become a place where allowance horses who didn't make the KD cut come back to race. The Preakness has become a G2 race. If the spacing between the Triple Crown races were more generous then the feilds would have more talent in them. Compare the KD day card and the Belmont day card with the Preakness card and it's a massive drop off of talent. The Preakness and it's entire card have lost a lot of luster. So for you to even suggest that I am NOT a real race fan is ludicrous. I am realist and will tell it as it is,
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Monmouth or Santa Anita?? You must be joking. If it ever was to be moved...it would simply be moved 25 miles South to Laurel Park.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't mean to leave off Laurel. Just stating as examples of better tracks.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
They may have lost "The Colts" but they will NEVER loose "The Preakness" unless we loose WW III...A revamped Laurel Park is where it should be as it has one of the best dirt tracks on the planet and Ole Bowie is right there with it...
michael More than 1 year ago
No it,wouldnt, Laurel,is way too small.
Julian Brown More than 1 year ago
dude, keep this quiet, there's money to be made on this dead rail
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
No the track had nothing to do with how Orb ran. What did he do after the Preakness? Yes you are correct nothing. Departing? Please they both lost to better horses period.