Even though neither offspring of his stallion Malibu Moon took a top spot in the 140th running of the Preakness Saturday, Josh Pons, of Bel Air, is glad to see the sport of horse racing come into the national spotlight following American Pharaoh's victory in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Pons and his brother, Mike, own Country Life Farm outside Bel Air, and they are part owners of the stallion Malibu Moon, who began his breeding career at their farm and now stands in Kentucky. Two of Malibu Moon's sons, Mr. Z and Danzig Moon, ran in the Preakness, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, in the field of eight horses.
"The greater story for the industry is, a horse as impressive as American Pharaoh going for the Triple Crown," Josh Pons said.
Mike Pons traveled to Baltimore to watch the race at Pimlico Race Course, while Josh stayed at Country Life to watch it on television with their farm crew.
"We had mares to breed and foals to take care of," he said.
Mike Pons said early Saturday morning that he would "be happy to be on the board," as he finished some last-minute shopping at the Klein's ShopRite in Bel Air before heading with family and friends to Baltimore.
American Pharaoh won the Kentucky Derby on May 2, and he will compete in the 147th Belmont Stakes, which is scheduled for June 6 in Elmont, N.Y. If he wins, he will be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed took the title in 1978.
American Pharaoh won the Preakness despite a torrential downpour minutes before post time, which left the track wet and muddy.
American Pharaoh took the lead early, and Mr. Z was in a close second for the first three-quarters of a mile of the mile and three-sixteenths race before falling behind.
"When it rained [I thought] he might like a muddy track," Josh Pons said. "Quick horses like the slop, and he's a quick horse, but American Pharaoh's a better horse."
Pons said Mr. Z "just got beat by a better horse today," and he called American Pharaoh "the most impressive horse I've seen since Secretariat," referring to the 1973 Triple Crown winner.
"We're glad all the horses came back safe, and we're looking forward to the Belmont and the focus it'll put on horse racing and what a great sport it is," he said.
Mike Pons said the storm, which came with heavy lightning, "was like something out of the Bible."
He said that "no other sport I know" would proceed with those conditions, but the horses went to the starting gate at the scheduled time.
"I thought, 'Holy cow, this might just be the miracle I need to get a muddy track that might neutralize 'the Pharaoh,'" he said.
Mike Pons said it seemed to him that American Pharaoh won in spite of the mud.
"I was hoping if he blinked, my guys would be on him, but it just wasn't meant to be," he said.
Pons said the annual running of the Preakness is similar to Maryland hosting the Super Bowl each year.
"Considering everything Baltimore City's been through in the last six weeks or so, this was a terrific turnaround for the town," he said.
Maryanna Skowronski, director of the Historical Society of Harford County, also attended with the Pons.
"Water was pouring off the grandstand roof like Niagara Falls," she said.
She noted "everybody came home safe."
"It was a nice day at the races," Skowronski said.