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Top 10 Preakness Stakes Moments
By Jay Hovdey
Ten races remind us why the Preakness often offers the best of the Triple Crown.
Those who figured that the Venezuelan colt Canonero II was nothing but a fluke when he won the Derby were slapped with the bright reality of his record Preakness performance.
They did not yet have the history of Affirmed and Alydar, but Sunday Silence and Alydar’s son Easy Goer put on a show for the ages as their rivalry grew. (Watch video)
Like kids scrambling for the same piece of candy, Silver Charm, Free House, and Captain Bodgit hit the wire as a team in the tightest three-way Preakness finish ever. (Watch video)
The red rivals go at it one more time, with Alydar attacking Affirmed with a furlong to run, but the result was the same as the Derby . . . Affirmed again. (Watch video)
Jockey Manuel Ycaza tried everything to get Ridan home first, including a grab for jockey John Rotz on Greek Money, but it was still Greek Money by a nose. (Watch video)
Afleet Alex went to his knees and jockey Jeremy Rose nearly hit the deck when Scrappy T swerved ahead of them at the head of the stretch, but Afleet Alex went on to win. (Watch video)
Bernardini was brilliant in victory, but all eyes were on the badly injured Derby winner Barbaro, a story that captivated the public. (Watch video)
Rachel Alexandra defies history to become the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924, defeating a dead game Derby winner Mine That Bird. (Watch video)
Codex and jockey Angel Cordero beat Derby winner Genuine Risk by pushing her out past the middle of the track on the home turn, then face public scorn and a courtroom drama. (Watch video)
Secretariat breaks last, then makes a breathtaking swoop around the clubhouse turn to take the lead entering the backstretch and never looks back. (Watch video)
Introduction by Jay Hovdey
The Preakness winner usually does not have much explaining to do. Not like some Kentucky Derby winners anyway.
When it comes to the chaotic Derby, recent history suggests that some results can be embraced only at arm’s length. (It’s not an easy move – try it.) There have been 50-1 shots like Giacomo and Mine That Bird, and one-hit wonders like Super Saver and Monarchos. Charismatic and Grindstone, colts of obvious ability, quickly disappeared like shooting stars. And now there has been, courtesy of the Derby, a cold slap in the face like Animal Kingdom, who had never before done horseplayers the courtesy of running over a surface that could be described as “dirt.” Take that.
In contrast, the Preakness has offered a formful sanctuary. The infield scene at Pimlico might be something straight out of “Hangover III,” but come race time the best horse usually wins. And by “best” we’re talking championship-caliber best.
Take the last 25 Preakness runnings, a fair enough sample. Of those 25 winners, only six failed to end the year as champions. And of those six, none of them qualified as a jaw-dropping surprise, unless you consider these colts to be out of deep left field: Summer Squall (winner of six other major stakes and $1,8 million), Pine Bluff (winner of the Arkansas Derby), Tabasco Cat (winner of the Belmont Stakes), Timber Country (a 2-year-old champion), and Louis Quatorze (beaten a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic).
The least accomplished among the Preakness non-champs of the past quarter century was Red Bullet, who upset the impressive Derby winner Fusiachi Pegasus in the 2000 running. But even Red Bullet was no great shock. He had won the Gotham Stakes that spring and had been lying in wait since his second to Fusiachi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial. Toss in a sloppy Maryland track loathed by the Derby winner and a no-prisoners ride by Jerry Bailey, and Red Bullet ended up looking like a Preakness winner just waiting to happen. Anyway, Tiznow was the top 3-year-old that year, and the weekend the Preakness was run he was busy out in California, still a maiden.
Since Red Bullet’s victory, quality has ruled supreme with 10 straight winning champions, all of them taking choice seats in a history dating to 1873, when Survivor was 10 lengths best in a field of seven.
Frank Stronach, the owner of Red Bullet, enjoyed the experience so much that two years later he had his racing company, Magna Entertainment, buy Pimlico and with it the rights to run the second jewel of the Triple Crown. For the 2011 running, interest has been goosed by the addition of a $5.5 million bonus to a horse who can add the Preakness to earlier victories in designated stakes events at tracks in the Stronach orbit. This seemed like a longshot, until Dialed In won both the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby this year, setting up the beaten Derby favorite for a huge payday if he can bounce back to take the Preakness.
This alone could make the 2011 verson of the Preakness memorable, but only time will tell if the winner will take his place at the same level as the 19 champions who have won the race since 1986. As far as penetrating the list of unforgettable runnings, high drama is required, as you can see from this top 10 ranking of modern renewals.
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