The Preakness must suffer from the “middle child syndrome” — there can be no other reason why this otherwise unremarkable race has offered fans such rich drama and curious occurances over its 134 runnings.
It’s the only Triple Crown race to have ever been run in two divisions, resulting in 2 different winners in 1918. The clubhouse has been struck by lightning (1909) and even burned down (1966). The race was homeless for several years in the late 1800s, when five runnings were held at Belmont Park.
In more recent history, the Preakness has suffered a track-wide power outage (1998); a drunken (and suicidal) infielder ran out onto the track and punched at horses racing in the 1999 sprint race on the Preakness undercard. Afleet ALex clipped heels with Scrappy T and stumbled to his knees, but his athletic jockey stayed on and the colt galloped home by daylight in 2005. Of course, there has been plenty said about Barbaro in 2006.
This year’s drama has so far happened off the track: Rachel Alexandra was sold to Jess Jackson for the sole purpose of competing in the Preakness. Ahmed Zayat then threatened on TVG that he’d stuff the gate with his own runners so that the filly couldn’t get in. Marylou Whitney was even wrapped up in the controversy. By Monday, all of the craziness was over, Zayat recanted and Rachel was in.
It’s good that Rachel ALexandra will get to face colts. She is a big, sturdy filly and should have no problems keeping up with the boys. She’s already faster than most of them. Borel is sticking with her over his Derby winner, which speaks volumes to her talent. Borel will also do everything he can to protect her should the race prove to be too much for her. I’m not worried about her physical condition or of her getting injured. Rags To Riches ran in the Belmont, for goodness sakes. So did Silverbulletday, my #1 favorite filly of all time. Rachel will be fine.
She will also win. As much as I’d love for Pioneerof The Nile to turn the tables on Mine That Bird, or even for Mine That Bird to continue the impossible dream, I believe Rachel has the speed and strength to win this race. The pace will be much faster here than the Derby, with Big Drama and Take The Points in the gate. But she can sit just off the leaders. She also has a better tactical turn of foot than most of the colts. Borel can put her anywhere he wants.
If it rains, Mine That Bird will be dangerous.