Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the 143rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore:
INEXPERIENCE SHOWS: Undefeated Justify brought down the Curse of Apollo when he joined Apollo (1882) as the only Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winners that were unraced at two. But his relative inexperience was there for all to see in the Preakness. He jumped tracks going under the wire the first time. Jockey Mike Smith said the youngster lost focus nearing the wire and was waiting for the competition instead of putting them away. “A bit of the greenness came out,” Smith acknowledged.
DIFFERING OPINIONS: Jose Ortiz, discussing his plans for champion and Derby runner-up Good Magic his diary for America’s Best Racing, expressed his determination to keep Justify from getting loose on the lead. He vowed to turn the Preakness into a match race, if necessary. Apparently, trainer Chad Brown had other ideas. “I would have liked to see a different scenario where maybe we were just off the pace a little bit and not being pressed on the fence the whole way,” he said. He noted, however, that the Preakness draw made life difficult for Ortiz because they broke from post five with Justify leaving from post seven.
SURGING BRAVAZO: Runner-up Bravazo, who missed defeating Justify by half a length, shows every sign of being a 3-year-old that is peaking at an ideal time. He surprised many by finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby before a rousing finish in the fog at Pimlico. “What I saw of it, I liked a lot,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “I want them to extend it another 50 yards. He was running on in the end.” Lukas intends to go on to the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes on June 9, so he will get some added distance there.
HORSE TO WATCH: That would be third-place finisher Tenfold, who got up for third while making only his fourth career start. As jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. said, “He ran a good race, but he’s still just a baby. I am happy with the third place and how he finished. He’s going to be tough later this year.” Steve Asmussen, the Hall of Famer who trains Tenfold, hopes the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin can be tough on June 9. When asked about running in the Belmont Stakes, he could not have been more enthusiastic. “Absolutely. Heck yes,” he replied.
BIG BUSINESS: The messy combination of rain and fog did not keep fans away, and it definitely did not keep them from digging deep into their pockets to wager. The Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club announced a handle of $93,655,128 and an attendance of 134,487. Both ranked third all-time. “It’s amazing that under the conditions, the fact field size was 6.6 compared to 8.9 the year before and we lost four turf races, our handle was $93 million,” said Sal Sinatra, president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club.