BALTIMORE — Followers are again at Pimlico Race Course to witness one other probability at a Triple Crown.
The Preakness will really feel considerably again to regular, even when every little thing carries a large asterisk.
The restricted capability of 10,000 followers anticipated Saturday is way lower than the group of 100,000 that normally packs the grandstand and infield and is a fraction of the 50,000 who noticed Medina Spirit win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs two weeks in the past. The Bob Baffert-trained colt was cleared Friday to run within the second leg of the Triple Crown after failing a post-Derby drug take a look at.
All eyes are on the Preakness to see what is going to occur subsequent in horse racing’s newest chapter of drama.
“If Medina Spirit goes and wins the Preakness on Saturday, most people goes to only instantly say, ‘Oh, nicely, look, there’s nonetheless one thing humorous occurring,'” NBC Sports activities betting analyst Matt Bernier mentioned. “If he would not run nicely for no matter purpose, most people will nonetheless have a look at it and say, ‘See, one thing humorous was occurring within the Kentucky Derby.’ It is a no-win scenario for Bob Baffert, for everybody concerned with the horse and for the business as a complete.”
Due to the presence of the Derby winner with a Triple Crown nonetheless doable when the beginning gates open, the Preakness is normally the most secure guess on the game’s calendar. The previous two years broke that development: The races had been out of order in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the 2019 Preakness got here out on the brief finish of the Derby mess after first-place finisher Most Safety was disqualified and Nation Home was named the winner — although each horses skipped the Preakness.
Medina Spirit is a tainted champion after 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone in his postrace blood pattern Might 1. However he’ll get one other alternative within the Preakness after he and stablemate Live performance Tour handed three further prerace drug assessments agreed to by Baffert and Maryland racing officers.
“Whereas we acknowledge the difficult circumstances that prompted this additional want for transparency, it displays, above all else, that the rules of integrity, accountability, and security in our sport are non-negotiable.” mentioned Craig Fravel, CEO of 1/ST Racing, a branding arm of the Stronach Group that owns Pimlico Race Course.
Medina Spirit opened because the 9-5 morning line favourite and Live performance Tour the 5-2 second alternative. By Friday night, Midnight Bourbon had grow to be the 5-2 favourite.
“I’ve acquired folks calling me [saying], ‘I actually like your horse,'” proprietor Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds mentioned of Midnight Bourbon. “It is arduous to not be overly optimistic.”
Except for the circus surrounding Medina Spirit and Baffert — who shouldn’t be in Baltimore and has left assistant Jimmy Barnes in cost — there’s loads of optimism about 10 horses working in entrance of followers once more on the Preakness. It may not be a full-out get together just like the Derby and will not characteristic a jammed infield, however the Black-Eyed Susan drinks will probably be flowing once more at Pimlico.
“Welcome, to say the least,” mentioned Steve Asmussen, who trains Midnight Bourbon. “It was such a rush to get again to the Derby this yr. We simply hadn’t had followers or something, and also you nearly weren’t prepared for it. However the power stage main as much as the race, through the race, wow, it was so welcome. And we would have liked it.”
The brief turnaround from the final Preakness on Oct. 3 gave Barnes much less time to recuperate from a damaged proper hand after a paddock accident on the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. He is simply glad to be again doing his job and would not thoughts filling in for Baffert.
“I am used to it,” Barnes mentioned. “I journey on a regular basis. I am at all times on the highway, and if Bob’s there generally, nice. If Bob cannot make it, then I simply have to choose up the slack and simply march on and attempt to do my finest and attempt to produce a win.”
Except for the out-of-order 2020 Triple Crown, Baffert-trained Derby winners are undefeated within the Preakness. The earlier two, Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015, went on to win the Belmont.
“The Derby’s the toughest race to get by way of to start with,” Barnes mentioned. “To get right here, I do not know. It looks as if the horses that run nicely within the Derby actually present up right here. Not less than each one among ours has.”
Baffert’s Genuine misplaced a stretch duel to filly Swiss Skydiver within the first October Preakness with no followers in attendance. 1/ST Racing chief advertising and marketing officer David Wilson mentioned that did not really feel proper and is hopeful a couple of limited-capacity Preakness this yr and a shiny future.
“It simply felt unusual,” he mentioned. “It may be nice to have followers again and we’re form of treading slowly. And I hope by Preakness 147, we’ll have a packed home.