BALTIMORE - Over the 132 years of the Preakness Stakes, members of the duPont family have owned horses in the race, even winners of the race.
But Joseph Masone, one of the owners of 15-1 Preakness shot Xchanger, may be a first.
"I work for DuPont," Masone said the other day. "I'm an industrial refrigeration mechanic."
Not long ago, Masone, who lives in St. Georges, Del., decided he'd like to invest in a horse. He had $25,000 to put in.
Three years later, he owns parts of eight horses. One has him in an owner's box at Pimlico Race Course for tomorrow's Preakness.
"It's like it's a dream," Masone said.
Xchanger actually had enough earnings to get in the Kentucky Derby and indicated his worthiness in winning the Tesio Stakes by 43/4 lengths at Pimlico on April 7. But the Derby was never the plan. Masone was at Delaware Park a couple of days after that race when he was asked about the possibility of running in the Derby.
"If we can get Ramon," Masone had said that day, referring to Ramon Dominguez, who had ridden Xchanger in the Tesio.
However, Dominguez already had a commitment to ride a Todd Pletcher horse, Sam P., so that wasn't part of the Derby equation. Anyway, trainer Mark Shuman had floated the idea after the Tesio that if anyone wanted to buy themselves a Derby horse, Xchanger was for sale.
"We had four very interested buyers, and it came close," said Masone, who owns 25 percent of Xchanger. "But the deal fell through."
Where was his 25 percent vote going?
"Trust me, I'm a worker," Masone said. "It would have helped me out very, very much."
According to Masone, the best offer hit seven figures, although he learned that at this stage of the game, things get more complicated, with future breeding possibilities needing to be ironed out as part of any sale.
"I'm glad that we didn't sell," Masone said. "I've seen this horse since he was two years old. I hate to see somebody else get the glamour."
Xchanger was spotted this same week last year by Masone's partner, Domenico Zannino of Baltimore, at Fasig-Tipton's sale in nearby Timonium. Zannino owns 50 percent of him, and Shuman has the last 25 percent. Zannino's father and Masone's late father were best friends. Masone got Zannino involved a couple of years ago after they spent a day at Delaware Park watching a few horses run that Masone had invested in.
Masone had grown up on Long Island and actually worked as a hotwalker for top trainer Laz Barrera in 1976 and '77. His own uncle Louis owned some horses. So did Uncle Mike, who got him back interested when he moved in with Masone in Delaware a few years ago.
Xchanger finished seventh in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park in March, but Masone certainly believes Xchanger is dangerous in this race, especially with Dominguez back on him. Xchanger showed how much he liked the track at the Tesio.
"When we left Oaklawn, that horse was sore, his feet were sore," Masone said. "Now, he's a whole different horse. He's been great at Fair Hill. You watch him on the track [working five furlongs], you say, 'OK, he's not going that fast.' But the horse does 59 and two[-fifths seconds], and he looked like he wasn't even pushing himself."
Whatever happens tomorrow, Xchanger already has earned $291,990, plus some unexpected thrills for his owners.
Masone was told he would have goose bumps on Saturday.
"I've got goose bumps now," he said, talking at the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor right after the Preakness draw.
Of course, real life is only a phone call away. As Masone was talking, his cell phone rang. His 16-year-old daughter wanted to know, "What's for dinner?"
"Look in the refrigerator," Masone told her.