This is the hometown horse, the one Baltimore likes to call its own. There's an immense measure of pride, personal and provincial, exuded by Henry Rosenberg, who is hoping for a kind of happiness he has not even remotely experienced. The smile on his face carries all the anticipated pleasure of a man involved in a Preakness dream that's within a mile and three-sixteenths distance of reality.
Racing is a fun game that breaks more hearts than that fictitious, flirtatious girl who is merely a picture on a billboard. Give Rosenberg the option of an oil well coming in or Dash For Dotty being first and he'd opt for the latter. That would mean the winner's circle, the Woodlawn Vase and being a part of what stands as more than a century of history.
Commercially speaking, this is one Preakness horse that physically may run out of gas but certainly not literally. He'll be serviced by Crown Central Petroleum since Rosenberg is the chairman of the board and so Baltimore-oriented you just know he grows black-eyed Susans in his back yard and sprinkles crab flakes on his breakfast waffles.
According to Henry, who is in against stiff competition, Dash For Dotty, named for his wife Dorothy, is the "best horse" he has had in six years of finding out firsthand how difficult it is to score in the racing business. It's likely Dash For Dotty is going to open at 50-to-1 on the odds board but take into account that when Rosenberg and numerous friends put their money where their hearts are that Dash For Dotty isn't going to be that long of a long shot. Building a case for Dash For Dotty, admittedly, takes some doing. He's a gelding, not by Henry's choice, but by the original owner, the partnership of Calumet Farm and Dr. J. W. Backer. The record book also verifies, with dismal reference, that a gelding hasn't won the Preakness since the World War. That's World War I, not II, when Holiday took the 1914 event.
To this point in his young career, Dash For Dotty has been promising but not exactly imposing. His Preakness presence hasn't scared off any of the invaders. Oddly enough, despite his strong Baltimore connections, owner Rosenberg and trainer Bill Donovan, who lives in Pikesville, only a furlong or two from Pimlico, this will be something of a homecoming.
Momentous? That's impossible to predict. Dash For Dotty hasn't raced in Maryland this year. He has been to the post 11 times, winning three (all in Florida) and shows five second-place finishes on his charted resume. Career earnings add to a modest $96,930, which is down the line when compared to most of the competition.
Dash For Dotty's best showing was in the Everglades Stakes at Hialeah when he lost by a length-and-a-quarter to Pistols And Roses, who was so far out of it in the Kentucky Derby (16th) that he might just as well have been running in place. The most disappointing showing, almost depressing, happened in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Because the jockey, Craig Perret, suggested Dash For Dotty be equipped with blinkers, Donovan went along with the idea. Then the horse finished ninth among 11 contestants, beaten by a resounding 14 3/4 lengths. But Perret, after dictating the change, took himself off the ride.
Rosenberg admits to being excited, filled with enthusiasm. "But the general belief is I own the horse," he said. "That's not exactly right. It's named for Dotty and it's her horse. I guess we've had about eight horses all together. This is the best. He broke a track record at Gulfstream. We're not sending him to the Preakness just because we live here."
If Dash For Dotty is up to the challenge, it'll be a reason for celebrating. Preakness champions with Baltimore connections, namely Spectacular Bid, Deputed Testamony and Alamo's Ruler, have won three times since 1979. That exceeds the percentages. Why not Dash For Dotty?
Until the Rosenbergs -- Henry, Dorothy, son Edward and the late Mrs. Ruth Rosenberg, Henry's mother -- formed Rainbow Stable, the interest was focused in racing cars, not horses. Crown Central Petroleum sponsored a car on the Winston Cup Circuit and would still be there except for the tragic loss of Robbie Moroso, a Rookie of the Year driver with immense potential who was killed in an accident -- not at a speedway but on a highway.
That threw Henry for an emotional loss. He backed off and applied his racing concentration to horses. The Rosenberg family name, as perpetuated by Henry, has been identified with ongoing philanthropic causes. If that kind of generosity can be translated to Preakness luck then the Rosenbergs deserve to be there, winning Baltimore's most famous horse race.