This coming Saturday afternoon and well into the evening, thoroughbred and harness racing fans will shift their attention to a pair of Maryland tracks as Pimlico Race Course hosts the latest renewal of the Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, then Rosecroft Raceway presents four $70,000 Maryland Sire Stakes finals on its “Sophomore Showdown” closing night program of the spring meet.
Saturday afternoon’s focus locally and nationally will of course be on the latest running of the Preakness Stakes, contested two weeks after the roughly run controversial Kentucky Derby when winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interference at the top of the lane and placed off the board while 65-1 longshot Country House was prompted to first for trainer Bill Mott. Oddly, this Preakness will not include either Maximum Security or Country House, although the post time favorite for the middle jewel is likely to be the beaten choice in the Derby – Improbable.
A near full field of 13 runners drew into the Preakness Stakes on Wednesday and Improbable (Mike Smith) was tabbed as the 502 favorite after going postward as the tepid 9-2 choice in the Derby. The Bob Baffert trainee had no excuse in the Derby, but like the others probably deserves a pass for his effort due to the sloppy conditions. Several others, including War Of Will (Tyler Gafflione), the center of the storm in the Derby DQ dealt to Maximum Security, drew the rail yet again and is the 4-1 second choice.
Several others exit the Derby and the Preakness includes more than its fair share of ‘new shooters’ with Maryland-based, Maryland-bred Alwaysmining perhaps the livest of them all. Trained by Kelly Rubley at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County, Alwaysmining has romped in his local preps, including an 11-length score in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, which earned him an automatic berth in the Preakness. He has ample speed and could be able to control the tempo and looks live at 8-1.
The Preakness is the highlight of a stakes-filled card that also includes the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for three-year-old colts traveling one-mile and one-sixteenth and the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes for sophomores going six furlongs. Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle King For A Day in the Sir Barton, named for the sport’s first Triple Crown winner in 1919, while the unbeaten Preamble tackles recent Robert Hilton Memorial winner Malpais in the Chick Lang.
A solid field of older sprinters will also clash in the $200,000 Maryland Sprint where Always Sunshine looms the solid choice. But Maryland-breds Lewisfield and Parade of Nations also loom serious contenders in this one-turn dash. Lewisfield simply whistled in his return to Laurel last month while taking the $75,000 Not For Love Stakes in 1:08.68 for trainer Jeff Runco.
That same evening Rosecroft Raceway will offer its final night of live racing for the 2019 spring meet and four, $70,000 Maryland Sire Stakes finals that comprise the “Sophomore Showdown” will highlight a 15-race program in which the track’s leading driver, leading trainer, pacer of the meet and trotter of the meet will also be honored.
In the $70k MDSS final for three-year-old filly pacers, Anna B looms the favorite, while Fire’n Woodshed (Roger Plante, Jr.) will put his unbeaten record on the line in the MDSS final for sophomore colt trotters. Then two races later HS Judy Jetson (Joseph Carroll) will tangle with Sleek N Majestic and Mary’s A Keeper in the final for three-year-old filly trotters then two races later Berzerker (Tony Morgan) should be the solid choice in the three-year-old colt final against Trump That Rusty and Officer Wholihan.
One race later Rosecroft will offer the $12,000 Open for trotters featuring Believe In Him, Deacons Valley, Lindy’s Big Bang and Fashion Smile then two races later the Open pacers will clash for $12,000 with Rock N Roll Jet, Diamondkeeper, Sams Triple Crown, Capital Builder, Abelard Hanover, Southwind Masimo and McKenry all set to battle in a contentious affair. Frank Milby will be honored as the leading driver, while Arlene Cameron has secured the training title.