Preakness 2008

May 24, 2008 at 2:39 pm (Horses) (, )

Having written about this year’s Kentucky Derby, I now feel I should say something about the Preakness. This race does, after all, take place at Pimlico Racetrack*, a Baltimore venue which I have frequently driven past. (But have I ever attended the races there? Don’t think so, and can’t say why not…)

It’s hard not to be stirred by Big Brown’s stellar performance. (That’s him, in the above picture.) Here’s John Scheinman of the Washington Post:” With the jockeys on Racecar Rhapsody [love that name!], Stevil, Hey Byrn and others pushing mightily to keep up. Kent Desormeaux shook his reins at Big Brown and got a response rarely seen in horse racing.”

I love the excitement of the announcer as he proclaims that “Kent Desormeaux looked in the rear view mirror and nobody was there!”

And yet…think of the pressure now being brought to bear on this magnificent animal, his jockey, and his trainer. After the tragedy of Eight Belles at the Derby, the anxiety is palpable.

The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. He was the third horse in that decade to gain thoroughbred racing’s greatest prize. Seattle Slew won in 1977; he was preceded by the great Secretariat in 1973. Before that, no horse had won all three races since Citation in 1948. (Click here for a complete list of Triple Crown Winners.)

My parents frequently attended the Belmont Stakes and occasionally traveled to Baltimore for the Preakness. They had never been to the Kentucky Derby. In 1973, Dad said, “Lil, let’s go to all three races. They’ve got a real winner this time.” And so it proved. I still remember my mother describing the near-hysteria in the grandstand and the clubhouse as Secretariat galloped toward the finish line. Many of the spectators were in tears.


The next day’s headline in the New York Times, if I remember correctly, was “Thirty-one Lengths to Immortality.” Talk about seeing no one in the rear view mirror!

The Belmont takes place on June 7. We wish Big Brown well. No – let me broaden that: We wish all the participants well, both equine and human.


*This interesting, rather poignant article appeared recently in the Washington Post. It seems that some of the stable hands at Pimlico live in small rooms in the training stables. The accommodations, though austere, are rent free. Darryl Scott, one of the residents, says, “I could make more money doing something else, but if you love horses the way I do, you’re going to stay.”

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