The anticipation ahead of the Preakness Stakes has been replaced by apprehension. The scandal swirling around Medina Spirit and Bob Baffert after a failed drug test following the Kentucky Derby has taken a bite out of the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
“The whole atmosphere here has changed,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a friend of Baffert. “The enthusiasm, the feel of excitement is not here. That’s what’s bad for the industry right there.”
If Lukas thinks this is bad, imagine Medina Spirit winning the Preakness and having a chance for the Triple Crown in a few weeks at Belmont. Sigh.
What: 146th Preakness Stakes
When: Saturday, 6:47 p.m. post time (Race 13 of 14).
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Md.
Distance: 1 3/16 miles.
TV: NBCSN, 2-5 p.m.; NBC, 5-7:30 p.m. Streaming: NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Other Triple Crown races: Kentucky Derby, May 1 (tentative winner: Medina Spirit), Belmont Stakes, June 5.
Vegas Vic/Inquirer handicapper: 3-Medina Spirit, 10-Concert Tour, 7-France Go de Ina, 5-Midnight Bourbon
Ed Barkowitz: 10-Concert Tour, 5-Midnight Bourbon, 3- Medina Spirit, 2-Keepmeinmind
Luke Reasoner/Inquirer news designer: 5-Midnight Bourbon, 1-Ram, 3-Medina Spirit, 10-Concert Tour
Cloudy, but dry. Temperatures in the upper 60s/low 70s.
Ram was entered mostly in honor of his late owner, Robert Baker, who passed away in November at 85. “His wife is emotional about, I think, coming here and being a part of this,” legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “We’re the long shot, but we’re dangerous. I don’t think we can win it. I think we can probably be on the board. But we may not even do that. If we don’t, we’ll load him up and go home.”
Ram is Lukas’ 45th Preakness horse. His first was Codex in 1980 (see chart below).
Medina Spirit, the controversial and perhaps temporary Kentucky Derby winner, drew the No. 3 post. He was No. 8 at the Derby.
Lukas stood by Bob Baffert when the news broke of Medina Spirit’s positive test for betamethasone last weekend. “Maybe some guy at a small race track who is in the third race and is desperate to pay the feed company might try a little something [underhanded],” Lukas said. “Bob Baffert is not going to do it. I believe him. He is a friend. I think he would level with me. I know this is hurting him. He is flat hurt. I have never seen him this distraught.”
Baffert will set the record for most Preakness victories if either Medina Spirit or Concert Tour hit the winner’s circle. He’s tied Robert W. Walden at seven.
France Go De Ina ran his first three races in Japan and his fourth, most recent, in the United Arab Emirates.
“It certainly has altered the dynamic of the Preakness considerably. It’s gone from a warm and fuzzy, feel-good story about a tenacious $1,000 yearling who somehow defied the odds to win the Kentucky Derby into the depths of where no one in horse racing likes to see it go.”
So what did Keepmeinmind, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, do during the 600-mile ride from Louisville to Baltimore? “He ate everything,” trainer Robertino Diodoro said. “The big thing is keeping him healthy and happy now and make sure he continues to eat well.”
Some bet silks. Some bet names. How about birthdays? Here are the days in 2018 each horse in the field was born. Jan. 25: Midnight Bourbon. Feb. 8: Keepmeinmind. Feb. 14: Crowded Trade, Unbridled Honor. Feb. 26: Concert Tour. March 1: France Go De Ina. March 7: Risk Taking. April 5: Medina Spirit. April 17: Rombauer. May 13: Ram.
Total: $1,000,000. First place: $600,000. Second: $200,000. Third: $110,000. Fourth: $60,000. Fifth: $30,000.