The Preakness will feel a bit back to normal, even though everything has a giant asterisk on it. The limited capacity of 10,000 fans expected on Saturday is far less than the 100,000 crowd that typically occupies the grandstand and infield, and is only a fraction of the 50,000 who saw Medina Spirit win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs ago. two weeks. The Bob Baffert-trained colt was cleared to race in the Triple Crown second leg on Friday after failing a drug test after the Derby.
All eyes are on the Preakness to see what will happen next in the dramatic final chapter of horse racing.
“If Medina Spirit wins the Preakness on Saturday, the general public is going to say, ‘Oh, well, look, there’s something more funny going on,’ said Matt Bernier, sports betting analyst on NBC. “If it doesn’t perform well for some reason, the general public will always look at it and say, ‘See, something funny was going on in the Kentucky Derby.’ This is a no-win situation for Bob Baffert, for everyone involved in the horse and for the industry as a whole. ”
Due to the presence of the Derby winner with a Triple Crown still possible when the starting gates open, Preakness is generally the safest bet on the sport calendar. The past two years have broken that trend: races were down in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the 2019 Preakness came out of the Derby mess in the short term after first place winner Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House was named the winner – although both horses skipped the Preakness.
Medina Spirit is a tainted champion after 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone in her blood sample postrace on May 1. officials.
“While we recognize the difficult circumstances that have created this additional need for transparency, this reflects, above all, that the principles of integrity, accountability and safety in our sport are not negotiable. said Craig Fravel, CEO of 1 / ST Racing, a branded arm of the Stronach Group that owns Pimlico Race Course.
WATCH | Medina Spirit wins the Kentucky Derby:
Medina Spirit opened as the morning row favorite 9-5 and Concert Tour the runner-up 5-2. On Friday night, Midnight Bourbon had become the 5-2 favorite.
“I have people who call me [saying] “I really love your horse,” Winchell Thoroughbreds owner Ron Winchell said of Midnight Bourbon. “It’s hard not to be overly optimistic. “
Aside from the circus surrounding Medina Spirt and Baffert – which isn’t in Baltimore and left assistant Jimmy Barnes in charge – there’s a lot of optimism about 10 horses racing in front of fans again at the Preakness. . It might not be a full-fledged party like the Derby and won’t feature a stuck infield, but the Black-Eyed Susan drinks will be flowing in Pimlico again.
“Welcome, to say the least,” said Steve Asmussen, who coaches Midnight Bourbon. “It was so eager to come back to the Derby this year. We just didn’t have any fans or anything, and you almost weren’t ready for it. But the energy level leading up to the race, during the race, wow, that was so welcome. And we needed it. ”
Barnes soutient Baffert
The short turnaround from the last Preakness on October 3 gave Barnes less time to recover from a broken right hand after a paddock accident at the Kentucky Derby on September 5. for Baffert.
“I’m used to it,” Barnes said. “I travel all the time. I’m always on the road, and if Bob is there sometimes, great. If Bob can’t do it, then I just have to take over and walk and try to do my best and try to win. ”
Aside from the broken 2020 Triple Crown, the Baffert-trained Derby winners are undefeated in the Preakness. The previous two, Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015, won the Belmont.
“The Derby is the hardest race to go through to start,” said Barnes. “To get here, I don’t know. It looks like the horses that run well in the Derby really show up here. At least each of us did. “
Authentic de Baffert lost a stretch duel against filly Swiss Skydiver in the first fanless October Preakness. 1 / ST Racing Marketing Director David Wilson has said that does not seem right and that he is hoping for limited capacity Preakness this year and a bright future.
“It was just weird,” he says. “It will be great to have the fans back and we are moving slowly. And I hope that with Preakness 147 we will have a full house. “