Preakness Stakes: Always Dreaming eyes second leg of Triple Crown
It’s one of American sport’s most fabled feats.
Winning the three most prestigious events on the US horse racing calendar, an achievement dubbed the Triple Crown and something only 12 horses have done since 1919.
Always Dreaming, the colt owned by a Brooklyn lawyer that galloped to Kentucky Derby glory earlier this month, will bid to take another step towards greatness at the 142nd Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Saturday.
The showpiece at Pimlico race course in Baltimore follows the Derby as the second of US flat-racing’s celebrated trio of early summer classics. The Belmont Stakes, three weeks later in New York, completes the crown jewels.
The most recent horse to triumph in all three — after a 37-year drought — was American Pharaoh in 2015.
Always Dreaming, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs two weeks ago and is the favorite for the Preakness Stakes, which was first run in 1873.
The race for three-year-old thoroughbreds, also held over dirt, is shorter than the blue riband Derby, at nine-and-a-half furlongs or 1 3/16 miles.
Always Dreaming gave trainer Todd Pletcher a “little bit of a fright” after getting “fired-up” and producing a series of bucks which led to a stumble during a gallop at Pimlico Monday, but the handler told reporters he was “really, really happy” with his work Tuesday.
“It couldn’t have gone any smoother,” Pletcher said.
The colt, owned by Brooklyn lawyer Anthony Bonomo, his wife Mary Ellen and Vinnie Viola, finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Lookin At Lee with Battle of Midway rounding out the top three in Kentucky.
“There’s more anxiety when you have the Derby winner and you’re going for the Preakness and he’s favorite, so that part is different but preparation-wise you’re trying to do everything you can to have him the best you can on the day,” added Pletcher.
Early Kentucky Derby favorite Classic Empire is second in the betting at Pimlico after a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs.
Lookin at Lee, trained by Steve Asmussen, and Derby seventh and 11th respectively, Gunnevera and Hence, follow in the odds for the 10-horse field.
Most valuable trophy
The winner of the Preakness Stakes gets 60% of the $1.5 million purse, — $900,000 — down to £45,000 (3%) for fifth. The rest don’t earn a dollar.
The victorious owner receives a $30,000 replica of the solid silver Woodlawn Vase, created by Tiffany and Co. in 1860.
The original, said to be worth $1 million and reputedly the most valuable trophy in American sports, is brought to the course for one day only and is kept in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Five fillies have won the Preakness in its illustrious history. The last was Rachel Alexandra in 2009, the first filly to win in 85 years.
The course record of 1:53 minutes was set by legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat in 1973.
The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans
The storied race has plenty of traditions in keeping with its status as US racing’s second biggest event after the Kentucky Derby.
Last year a record 135,256 spectators went to the Pimlico feature, while 158,070 people attended this year’s Derby, according to NBC.
One such lore is the painting of the weather vane — a miniature horse and rider — on the Old Clubhouse cupola with the colors of the winning team for a year.
The winning horse is also draped in a blanket resembling a carpet of yellow black-eyed Susan flowers, representing the state flower of Maryland.
The race was named after a horse — Preakness — which won an event held over the new Pimlico course in 1870.
The Bonomo team, including son Anthony Jr., operate Brooklyn Boyz stable after getting into racing in 2005. Bonomo Sr. insists he never thought he would have a horse of such stature, and says the name, thought up by his wife, is fitting.
“It was always our dream to get a horse in a big race, and we’re always dreaming in life, not just in horse racing. Every day, aren’t you dreaming about something?”
If Saturday goes to plan, he can keep dreaming for a little longer yet.