Open contest in prospect but no Triple Crown bid for 2019 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico
There may be no Kentucky Derby winner in this year’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on Saturday but there will be no less excitement and an intriguing race in prospect.
After the events at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago which saw a disqualification of the first horse across the line – Maximum Security – for interference, and an outsider in Country House being elevated into the win spot, this year’s renewal and 144th running of the Preakness promises to offer a less controversial but equally open contest. Both horses will be missing from Saturday’s action, making it the first time in 23 years that there will be no Triple Crown at stake at Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes next month.
The Preakness Stakes is the second leg of USA racing’s Triple Crown. Run over a distance of nine and a half furlongs – compared to the Kentucky Derby which is over a mile and a quarter – the race carries a purse of $1.5 million with the historic $4 million Woodlawn Vase, created by Tiffany and Co. in 1860, also awarded to the winner.
The 13 horse starting field announced is a balanced line-up with four horses who ran for the roses at Churchill Downs earlier this month — Improbable (fourth place), War of Will (seventh), Win Win Win (10th) and Bodexpress (13th) — competing in this year’s run for the Black-eyed Susans.
Of those, the horse most likely to challenge and will be race favourite is Improbable, trained by the legendary Bob Baffert who already has seven Preakness victories to his name.
Improbable may be winless in three starts as a three-year-old but he does have two second-place finishes in graded-stakes races and a fifth-place finish (later promoted to fourth) in the Kentucky Derby. And with jockey Mike ‘Big Money’ Smith at the helm, this highly-rated colt could not pick a better time and race to get back to winning ways.
There are however a series of other useful contenders, in particular Bourbon War, who is trained by Mark Hennig and will ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. Bourbon War finished fourth in the Florida Derby behind Maximum Security, Bodexpress, and Code of Honor, a result which left him just short of having enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. However it was that performance which prompted a change of thinking and a shot at one leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness the more appealing of the two remaining. Given that Bourbon War has a preference for running from the back of the pack and boasts a strong closing kick, Hennig’s choice to enter could prove to a wise and fruitful one.
Another high-profile trainer Brad Cox has two entries in the race who may have a say in matters. The aptly-named Warrior’s Charge is something of a pacesetter and led from start to finish in his last two races winning by a combined total of 12 and a half lengths. However the horse is making a big jump in class to a first graded stakes race which will be an interesting test but not an unsurmountable one, especially in the hands of experienced jockey Javier Castellano.
Cox’s second hope is with Owendale, a fast maturing and well rested colt who produced an impressive rally in the Lexington Stakes. Florent Geroux will be in the saddle for the first time which makes this horse an intriguing contender.
The Preakness would not be the same without competition from U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee and legendary trainer, Darrell Wayne Lukas and he has Market King as his entry this time out. Lukas has six Preakness victories to his name but the prospects of Market King landing him a seventh are perhaps remote with his horse out of form with only one victory in eight starts. However Lukas is well accustomed to landing winners from proverbial outsiders so anything is possible.
For the romantics, there is always a local horse in the Preakness whom Marylanders invest their hearts and dollars in and this year could well be their year. Kelly Rubley’s Alwaysmining has won six straight races and in many people’s eyes has a better shot than any recent hometown favourites at becoming the first Maryland-bred to win the Preakness since 1983.