In advance of this weekend’s 141st running of The Preakness Stakes, Sports Explained provides you with all you need to know on The Triple Crown, Kegasus, and betting the ponies in Baltimore.
This weekend at the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland is the 141st running of The Preakness Stakes.
Sandwiched between the incredibly famous Kentucky Derby (AKA “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports“) and the venerable Belmont Stakes (the longest of the races at 1.5 miles, “The Test of Champions“), the Preakness is second leg of horse racing’s holy grail, The Triple Crown.
Partying at The Preakness
Essentially, The Preakness is to the Triple Crown what Tito Jackson is to the Jackson Five: a vital part of the group, but also a bit of a wild card. The race is known for having somewhat of a party atmosphere, especially in the packed general admission “infield” area (“InfieldFest”), which used to be BYOB.
Unfortunately, the whole BYOB horse racing experience came to a crashing halt in 2009, though we’re not sure why. (It might have been the viral videos of the drunk people standing on top of Port-O-Potties being pelted with beer cans that was too much for the genteel image of the sport. “What is this NASCAR?!?” Oh right. That was it.)
Unfortunately, this led to a 30% decline in attendance, a fact that deeply troubled The Maryland Jockey Club. This in turn led to the birth and rise of Kegasus — a beer-hawking centaur mascot of sorts — with his signature catchphrase: “A 10-hour party to celebrate a two-minute race. Now we’re talking.”
Now we’re talking.
Though Kegasus no longer graces the InfieldFest (having been retired a few years back), have no fear. You can still pick up a delicious Black Eyed Susan, the official vodka-based cocktail of The Preakness, to pass the time.
These Horses are Total Studs
You have you superstar trainers (Bob Baffert, we’re looking at you); your excitable jockeys (Gosh, they are so tiny and adorable, you just want to tuck them in your shirt pocket and take them home with you); and, of course, the wonderful play by play announcers (“And DOWN the stretch they come!”).
But of course, the true stars here, the horses, live according to the Wilt Chamberlain Credo of “Train. Race. Win. Stud.” And they are are incredible athletic specimens. As Laura Hillenbrand described so beautifully in her novel, Seabiscuit: An American Legend:
The racehorse, by virtue of his awesome physical gifts, freed the jockey from himself. When a horse and a jockey flew over the track together, there were moments in which the man’s mind wedded itself to the animal’s body to form something greater than the sum of both parts.
Horse Racing: The History, Power and Grace
So you see, horse racing is a fancy and genteel celebration of the power and grace of these beautiful animals. Just with a lot of drinking and gambling. And floppy hats of course.
So let us walk that path for a bit, shall we?
The Triple Crown evokes memories of great horses of yesteryear: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed.
But it has been since Affirmed won all three races in 1979 that any horse has managed the crowning feat. Since that time, many have won the first two legs – great for intrigue and ratings!- only to come up short at the Belmont. That list includes a venerable list of horse names you may know and remember: Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, and most recently California Chrome.
This weekend, most eyes will be on unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner, Nyquist. Another horses that oddsmakers are pegging as a favorites is Kentucky Derby second place finisher – er, sorry Place finisher – Exaggerator.
Who will take it?
Don’t go and bet on it or anything, but we’re predicting a win for Nyquist, which would set up another dramatic Belmont Stakes, and the potential for back-t0-back Triple Crown Winners.
Not for nothing, but last year, we correctly predicted a win for American Pharoah, as we were even willing to set aside the fact that he misspelled the Pharaoh part of his name in view of the fact that he was fast. American Pharoah is now “off to stud,” and has pretty much the best job on earth. Just saying.
At any rate, this Egyptian Pharaoh agrees with us: “Book it,” says he, in his dialect:
We almost forgot to talk about the fact that there is also some small amount of betting on the horse racing.
(Read: It is as intrinsic to the sport as oxygen is to life on earth.).
Here is a handy guide so you can tell as Exacta from a Trifecta and figure out how much money you’ve won!
Photo Credit: Associated Press/File