As with most debates involving sports, there are varying reasons for the absence of a Triple Crown champion racehorse over the past 37 years. It has as much to do with bank accounts as bloodlines, yet trying to pinpoint the main reason is as elusive as the achievement itself.
To let the Preakness, its jobs, its income and the attention in brings to Baltimore slip away down the road for some technical business reasons is not how we do things. That's not how we solve our problems. And that kind of thinking is not what made us great.
Allow me to send a facetious thank-you to Sal Sinatra, the general manager of Pimlico Race Course who, just a week after one of the worst periods in Baltimore's history, publicly raised the idea of moving the Preakness out of town. Great, and thank you very much. This city is in pain, and, just as the Preakness approaches, with its restorative potential as a great Baltimore event, here comes Sinatra, making statements about moving the big race to Laurel.
To hear Preakness organizers and the owners of Maryland's Pimlico and Laurel Park racetracks tell it, the second jewel of the Triple Crown is only one piece, albeit an important one, of the state's broader racing culture.
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.
American Pharoah left no doubts about his status as the pre-eminent 3-year-old of a gifted crop after winning the 2015 Preakness Stakes. Now the question is whether he can handle the war of attrition that will culminate with a Triple Crown shot on June 6 in the Belmont Stakes.
The sports fan known as "Marlins Man," who generated widespread curiosity and Internet fame when he sat behind home plate for the World Series, positioned himself at the finish line at the end of the 140th running of the Preakness on Saturday.
Morning-line long-shot Tale of Verve charged down a muddy homestretch past a trio of Kentucky Derby contenders to take second, seven lengths behind Triple Crown aspirant American Pharoah, in his first stakes race.
Despite fans in the grandstands being cleared as the skies rumbled with thunder and flashes of lightning danced in the near distance, the second leg of racing's Triple Crown continued on a 1 3/16-mile track that resembled a giant slip-and-slide rather than the stage for a dominant seven-length victory.
American Pharoah swept to a commanding victory — and kept alive hopes for an elusive Triple Crown — as Baltimore eagerly embraced the 140th Preakness Stakes' boisterous day-long festivities, which came less than three weeks after the city was torn by riots and looting.
The third Saturday in May was like any other. The grandstand at Pimlico Race Course was a bouquet of fancy hats and the infield was awash in live music, cheap beer and parimutuel tickets that fell like snow after every race. Normalcy returned to Baltimore in the form of the 140th Preakness, a rite of spring that came at just the right time for a city that spent much of the past month in anguish and turmoil.
Firing Line came very close to being the Triple Crown candidate with a strong performance at the Kentucky Derby, and the planets have aligned almost perfectly for him to upset American Pharoah in the Preakness.
The fast-growing Under Armour, a Baltimore-based sports apparel and footwear brand, and its ambitious founder and CEO, Kevin Plank, have embraced the Preakness, the city's largest, splashiest sporting event and the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. The two brands have become increasingly entwined.
American Pharoah is a brilliant horse, admired by all the wisest observers in the racing game. But the Kentucky Derby champion is always a sensation during Preakness week. What sets this year apart is the presence of two challengers in Firing Line and Dortmund who gave the champ all he wanted at Churchill Downs.
It had to be one of those what-are-the-odds moments for trainer Bob Baffert, and we're not talking about the fact that Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah was set as a 4-5 morning line favorite for the 140th running of the Preakness on Saturday at Old Hilltop. Baffert, who said before Wednesday's race draw that he is always "post-position sensitive," ended up with both Pharoah and third-place Derby finisher Dortmund stacked 1-2 on the rail.
Trainer Dallas Stewart and owner Charles Fipke's decision on Tale of Verve's status for the 140th Preakness next Saturday at Pimlico Race Course likely will rest on their analysis of last Saturday's Kentucky Derby.