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Notes from the Preakness: Future looks bright at Pimlico, big bet skews odds, Uncle Lino breaks race record

Horses leave the starting gate during the 141st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 21, 2016. Exaggerator won the race.
Horses leave the starting gate during the 141st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 21, 2016. Exaggerator won the race. (Garry Jones / AP)

Speculation about the future of the Preakness has become an annual rite of spring, but Maryland Jockey Club vice president Sal Sinatra tried Saturday to temper the impression that the Stronach Group would prefer to move the middle jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown to Laurel Park.

In a surprisingly solid statement in support of historic Pimlico Race Course, Sinatra said that — pending the outcome of a study by the Maryland Stadium Authority — his preference would be to keep the race at Old Hilltop.

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"Yeah, of course, definitely," he said.

Although Belinda Stronach, the president of the Stronach Group, seemed noncommittal during a news conference earlier in the week, Sinatra said the lingering notion that ownership was leaning toward Laurel comes from an early evaluation of the event by a new front office hierarchy that took into account only the economic implications.

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Now that everyone has had time to see the whole picture, Sinatra said, talk of moving the Preakness permanently to Laurel has cooled.

"In part, that was mine and [Stronach Group chief operating officer] Tim Ritvo's fault, because we were new last year, and we were trying to straighten out a sinking ship, if you will. … But once you come here and look through one Preakness, you feel the history, you feel the energy and you see what the kids are doing out there and you're going to try every which way to keep it here."

Stradivari odds make curious move: Stradivari, the Todd Pletcher-trained horse who opened at the third-best odds of the 11-horse Preakness field, got enough early action in the win pool that he emerged as a slight favorite over Nyquist just hours before the big race.

When the odds went up about 3 p.m. Stradivari was a 3-2 favorite and Nyquist was 8-5.

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Sinatra said that when he began hearing about the odds shift, he checked on the betting and was told that there was an $80,000 win bet placed at Laurel early in the day.

Uncle Lino runs fastest first quarter in Preakness history: Rain throughout the day worsened the track conditions and threatened to slow the pace of the Preakness, but as it turned out, the first quarter of the race was the fastest in history.

Uncle Lino was in the lead by a head over Nyquist, running the first quarter in 22.38 seconds. The previous record was 22.4 seconds, set four times, most recently by Vicar in 1999.

Exaggerator sat in eighth off Uncle Lino's fast pace and was in sixth through three quarters. He pushed to the front heading into the final stretch and kept the lead the rest of the way.

Uncle Lino suffered a tendon injury during the race and was taken by van to the barn afterward. Uncle Lino was bleeding from the leg, but it was not a serious injury.

Cherry Wine edges Nyquist, finishes second: In the fifth meeting between the two, Exaggerator finally edged Nyquist in the Preakness, but another horse also beat the previously undefeated Nyquist — 17-1 long shot Cherry Wine.

Starting in the No. 1 spot on a sloppy track that had stymied horses in the rail position all day, Cherry Wine was 10th after the first quarter.

He was still 10th at the three-quarter mark, then closed to fifth heading into the stretch and made a last push to finish ahead of Nyquist by a nose.

T-Sizzle can't sack the competition: By now, most know the story of prize horse Nyquist, named after Detroit Red Wings right wing Gustav Nyquist.

But what about T-Sizzle?

The seventh race at Pimlico on Saturday featured more cross-sports appreciation — and considerable Baltimore flavor.

T-Sizzle, a horse named, of course, after Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, ran in the Old Bay Race. He finished an unimpressive seventh.

Meanwhile, the winner of that race, Chief Istan, is owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farm.

A busy day for several jockeys: Jockey Luis Saez hopped off his horse after the eighth race at Pimlico with barely a moment to stop.

Entering Saturday, Saez was scheduled to ride in 10 out of 14 races, most of any jockey. Halfway through the afternoon, he was on pace for nine because of a late scratch for his horse in the fourth race. That gave him a reprieve from riding nonstop in the second through eighth races.

"It's a little tough — weather, too," Saez said on a cloudy, wet day at Pimlico. "The horses sometimes don't like the track.

"It's all right. We gotta keep going."

After riding Seeking Paradise in the eighth race, Saez had a short break until the 11th, after which he would ride in the 12th and 14th to end his day.

Six other jockeys — Victor Carrasco (eight), Florent Geroux (seven), Horacio Karamanos (eight), Jose Lezcano (eight), Trevor McCarthy (seven) and Jevian Toledo (eight) — were on pace to ride in at least half of Saturday's races, barring more scratches.

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