Preakness embraces its reliable role following the Kentucky Derby
BALTIMORE — You don’t hear about backyard Preakness parties. It’s hard to pull off a blind-draw betting pool with only nine horses. Yes, there are still hats and a signature drink, but the Preakness has its own identity.
It’s usually the first public appearance of the Kentucky Derby winner, but not this year.
It’s a race that a filly has won six times, and there is a reasonable chance it can happen this year.
And it always raises the question if two weeks is too soon to bring back a horse after a major race such as the Kentucky Derby. Six of the nine horses did not run in the Derby this year.
But to get to the personality of the race and put it today’s vernacular, you need look no further than the children in the long-running sitcom “Modern Family.”
“The Kentucky Derby is like Haley Dunphy, the glamorous one, very pretty, maybe not the brightest one but the one who attracts the most general interest,” said veteran racing journalist Ron Flatter, now the managing editor at the website horseracingnation.
“The Belmont Stakes is like Luke Dunphy, precocious, but sometimes shows you moments of brightness and other times you wonder, ‘What is he thinking?’
“The Preakness is like Alex Dunphy. She is the one that is never going to disappoint you. She’s reliable.
She always delivers something smart, something intelligent, something where you say, ‘We can build the future here.’ But often the forgotten one because of being the middle child.”
And then there is the horse race.
Saturday’s race, the 147th one, lost status when the owner of Rich Strike, the Kentucky Derby winner, decided to give his horse more rest and skip the second leg of the Triple Crown and point to the Belmont Stakes.
But Epicenter, the horse everyone thought was going to win the Kentucky Derby, is here and installed as the 6-5 favorite.
Secret Oath, the filly and winner of the Kentucky Oaks, is mysteriously only the third choice at 9-2. Early Voting, a horse that has run only three races and has not run for six weeks, is the 7-2 second choice.
“I wanted another shot at [beating Rich Strike], maybe it’s just me being ignorant,” said Steve Asmussen, Epicenter’s trainer. “But you’re here to compete. I’m sure they’ll meet up again down the road, hopefully.”
The race is expected to set up with Early Voting, Armagnac (12-1) and possibly Fenwick (50-1) going for the lead in the 1 3/16-mile race, a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby. Secret Oath and Epicenter are likely to be in a stalking position just off the lead, and hoping not to get caught up in fast early fractions, which is how Rich Strike was able to sneak to the wire first in a huge upset at Churchill Downs.