Stroll Down Memory Lane: Our Favorite Editions of the Preakness

Rachel Alexandra winning 2009 Preakness Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With a date for the 2020 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course still to be determined due to the coronavirus pandemic, the America’s Best Racing staff takes a look back during what typically is the week of anticipation leading into the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Team ABR offers its favorite editions of the second jewel of the Triple Crown for a jaunt down memory lane. Please share your favorite edition of the Preakness with us on social media, and hopefully this year will provide yet another indelible memory, whenever this year's Preakness is contested.

Melissa Bauer-Herzog — 2001 Preakness

This year was my first Triple Crown season as a racing fan and after watching my favorite horse Point Given lose the Kentucky Derby, 12-year-old me was somewhere between heartbroken and ready for revenge against “that gray horse” two weeks later in the Preakness. In the stretch, I was worried Point Given would get caught (the potential for a steward’s inquiry or objection for Point Given lugging in during the stretch never crossed my mind) but it’s (extremely) possible I danced around my living room when he crossed the finish line first.  As the first classic race I actually enjoyed, I can say hands down that it was my favorite Preakness Stakes.

Mike Curry — 1989 Preakness

I view Afleet Alex’s 2005 Preakness Stakes win as the greatest demonstration of athleticism that I’ve ever witnessed on a racetrack, but when people ask me why I love horse racing or what is so great about it, I show them the 1989 Preakness. As one of the few (I think) who actually revered both Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, watching these two Hall of Famers battle through the length of the stretch in one of the greatest head-to-head duels in the history of horse racing was exhilarating at the time and remains so for me today. It’s the best race I’ve ever seen; it featured two of my all-time favorite racehorses and it sparked a lifelong passion for the sport. I’d wager I’ve watched that replay on YouTube a minimum of a thousand times and I’ll bet I’ve shown it to at least 60-70 friends/family when I needed visual evidence of the unmatched thrill a two-minute race can produce. We have both the head-on image of the Preakness stretch and a photo of Easy Goer’s Belmont Stakes win hanging on the wall in our basement.

Christina Moore — 2005 Preakness

One of my favorite parts of horse racing is watching a great horse that really knows what racing is about and truly wants to win. Afleet Alex was one of those horses. After a third-place finish in the 2005 Kentucky Derby he went off as the favorite in the Preakness and gave me my favorite edition of the race.

Afleet Alex was seventh with less than a half-mile to go and started rolling on the turn for home. But as the field rounded the turn, leader Scrappy T shied from a left-handed whip and swerved into the path of Afleet Alex, causing him to stumble and nearly fall, his nose inches from the dirt. Remarkably, Afleet Alex didn’t skip a beat, gathering himself and continuing his winning move, cutting to the inside of Scrappy T for a 4 ¾-length victory in an incredible feat of athleticism and tenacity. Every time I watch the replay, I catch my breath as Afleet Alex goes to his knees, and every time he rebounds to win impressively I am amazed. It’s a race I will never tire of watching.

Penelope Miller — 2009 Preakness

My favorite Preakness is an easy call: Rachel Alexandra’s win in the 2009 running of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The 2009 Preakness followed an unforgettable Kentucky Derby in which Mine That Bird stunned the crowd by winning at odds of 50-1. Then, for the first time in history, Mine That Bird's jockey Calvin Borel opted to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra, giving up his mount on the winner of the run for the roses. Rachel Alexandra came into the Preakness as a respected racehorse in the female division; she exited it as a living legend to be feared by Thoroughbreds regardless of gender. Rachel Alexandra went on beat the boys two more races — the Haskell Invitational Stakes at Monmouth Park and the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course — before her retirement, but it was her victory in the Preakness that catapulted her to the national spotlight and made her a household name for years to come.

Patrick Reed — 2004 Preakness

Seventeen years in and counting, and I’d argue that there have been few – if any – Thoroughbreds who captured the nation’s attention this century the way Smarty Jones did in the spring of 2004. Everything was appealing about him: his Pennsylvania-based connections; the way he overcame a serious injury he suffered as a 2-year-old while schooling; and, oh yes, his absolute domination on the racetrack. He entered the Preakness Stakes unbeaten and off of a 2 ¾-length win in the Kentucky Derby, and at Pimlico he topped that by dispatching pacesetter and Derby runner-up Lion Heart at the top of the lane and blazing to an awe-inspiring, stakes-record 11 ½-length blowout in front of over 112,000 screaming fans. That set off a three-week period of excitement leading up to the Belmont Stakes that wasn’t equaled until California Chrome’s and American Pharoah’s back-to-back runs at the Triple Crown in 2014 and 2015. The Belmont result wasn’t what most everyone wanted, but the memories of Smarty Jones’s 2004 campaign will last a lifetime.

Note: this article was first published in 2016.

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