In recent years, the Gaudet family watched a succession of their friends in the horse-racing business leave Maryland for the lure of larger fields and heftier purses in other states.
But Linda Gaudet, the Prince George's County-based co-owner of Concealed Identity — which finished 10th in the Preakness — and her relatives remained tied to the state out of affection, habit and family connections.
So running a horse in the Preakness seemed like a reward, even though Concealed Identity didn't challenge at the end. "Nothing bad about it," said Lacey Gaudet, an assistant trainer who is Linda's daughter.
The care and training of the gelding — the son of 2004 Preakness and Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and the only Maryland-bred, Maryland-based horse in Saturday's race — couldn't be more of a family project. Linda Gaudet's husband, Eddie, 80, is Concealed Identity's trainer and had waited his whole career for a Preakness horse. Lacey is the horse's assistant trainer and another daughter, Gabby, a Towson University student, is in a long-term relationship with the jockey, Sheldon Russell. "We all see each other around the dinner table," Eddie Gaudet said.
On Saturday, Linda and Lacey sat in the cool shade beneath the green awnings of the Preakness barns waiting for the race. "I'm very calm. I don't know why," Linda said. Concealed Identity — who is half-blind after injuring an eye rolling in his stall last year — was up in his stall after taking a nap. "He sleeps with his good eye down. He just lays out," she said.
Smarty Jones also nearly lost an eye in 2003 after rearing in the starting gate and smacking his head. That horse, stabled at Philadelphia Park, was adopted by his home state in a way that Marylanders might rally around a Preakness winner to call their own.
Concealed Identity — whose path to the Preakness wasn't cleared until Ruler On Ice passed on the race — seemed well-positioned early. "He was in great position going into the first turn," Lacey said. But the horse found itself in traffic on the backside, and "it's been a long time since he's gotten that much dirt in his face," she said.
Like many Marylanders in the business, the Gaudets were more than bystanders in the debate over whether the state should permit slot machines — whose revenues were long seen as critical to saving Maryland racing. Linda Gaudet, 58, said she has testified in Annapolis over the issue. She said the state's industry will benefit from the opening of slots parlors. She hopes it's not too late.
In the meantime, she had hopes that her horse might boost morale. "We've been in Maryland for so long and Marylanders need somebody to root for," she said.
Boyce enjoys Preakness Day experience
Last year, Forest Boyce watched the Preakness on TV in her home in Fallston. On Saturday, she viewed it from the balcony of the jockeys' room at Pimlico, where she has a dressing stall.
Next year, Boyce, who attended Garrison Forest, hopes to get even closer when the second leg of the Triple Crown rolls around.
"I'd absolutely love to ride in the Preakness — hopefully, sooner rather than later," the 26-year-old jockey said. "I'd prefer it to be a 'live ride', but beggers can't be choosers. Just being in that race would be amazing."
Maryland's leading jockey in 2010 as a rookie, Boyce won 129 races and was runner-up for national acclaim — the Eclipse Award's Apprentice Rider of the Year.
At Pimlico on Saturday, Boyce rode in five races and took third in the fifth race, her best finish. While her winning percentage (10) at Old Hilltop ranks lowest among the leading jockeys there, fully half of Boyce's 126 mounts have finished in the money, ranking her fourth in the Pimlico meet.
Just competing on Preakness Day for the first time in the fringe races was a thrill, she said.
"All of the big-time trainers are here, and if you do well this weekend, well, maybe they'll take notice," she said.
Boyce is inching front and center. Already in 2011, she has ridden at Atlantic City, with prestigious Saratoga next on her wish list.
"I don't want to ride just any horse there," she said. "I want to do my best."
Her goals are to (1) win 50 more races this year than last, and (2) lay the groundwork to possibly ride in the 2012 Preakness. Saturday's jockey lineup was an all-male field.
"To compete [in the Preakness], you've got to ride that [star] horse as a two-year-old, or at the beginning of his three-year-old year, and just hope the trainer keeps you on it," she said. "Luckily, I ride for some classic trainers, so, who knows?"
Animal Kingdom a crowd favorite Saturday
Animal Kingdom trainer Graham Motion said he felt the Pimlico crowd was behind his horse Saturday.
And why not?
He had expected a much different reception, he said, than when Animal Kingdom was a longshot entering the Kentucky Derby.
"It's very different because you come here with the Kentucky Derby winner," Motion said. "You'd have to be a pretty cold-hearted person not to root for the Kentucky Derby winner" in the second leg of the Triple Crown, he said.
Note: Paddy O'Prado, who won the Dixie Stakes a year after finishing sixth in the Preakness, was taken to the barn area via ambulance as this year's Preakness ended. An assistant trainer for the horse said that he was examined, but was "fine." Paddy O'Prado, who like Preakness winner Shackleford is trained by Dale Romans, had his front legs in ice buckets Saturday night but was not receiving special attention from veterinarians or his connections.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Cowherd contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun