Foggy Preakness run leaves several trainers searching for horses going into final turn

Justify jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert talks about what it took to win the 143rd Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Three years ago, torrential rain and lightning right before and during the Preakness were talked about nearly as much as American Pharoah’s victory.

On Saturday night, a dense fog that shrouded the Pimlico Race Course for the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown was as much a part of the conversation as Justify’s win.


It even shook up the horse’s co-owners.

“When this race was going on, I was there and we were watching, and really what got to me more than anything is when they kind of turned for home and all of a sudden I couldn’t see him,” Kenny Trout said. “That scared me to death. … Then finally they showed up right there. Boom. It was unbelievable.”

Said Elliott Walden: “It seemed like an eternity, but when they went into the fog, I was like, ‘Where are they? Where are they?’ Just the anticipation of them coming out and you knew when they went in that he was in front, so you you were hoping to see those white silks coming out.”

Winning trainer Bob Baffert joked that he was thinking more about the race announcer than his horse.

“Well, I was thinking it’s got to be tough for Larry Collmus, the announcer,” Baffert said. “He was probably saying, ‘They’re in the backside, I can’t see horses, but there’s [rapper and InfieldFest headliner] Post Malone.’ It’s like my boys were with me and they said, ‘I can’t see anything.’ When I heard my boys say, ‘He’s making his move,’ I saw the white colors turning for home.”

Saying the fog made the race “freakishly exciting,” Steve Asmussen, the trainer of third-place finisher Tenfold, added that “there felt like there was a five-minute lull until you saw him again, and when they came out and he was considerably closer, you just jumped.”

Asmussen said that Saturday’s conditions, as well as those three years ago, are just part of the elements that horses have to deal with during a race. He compared it with being on an airplane descending from the clouds into an airport with low visibility and thinking a relatively safe landing has suddenly become treacherous.

“That’s what makes horse racing what it is — it affects every single one of them differently," Asmussen said. "Great horses have to overcome it. It’s like anything. It’s like looking out of a window when you’re flying into town. What you think is a big deal can be extremely insignificant when put into perspective. It can stir you up a little bit, turn your tummy, you know?”