UPDATED 5/17/13: Last year, I wrote a blog curating some of the best moments in televised Preakness history. While we all wait with baited breath to see if the locally owned Derby champ Orb can join the hallowed ranks of Secretariat and Native Dancer, we thought it would be fun to revisit the post. Feel free to leave your own favorite Preakness memories in the comments below! Please also note that two of the videos I posted last year (the Native Dancer and Seattle Slew ones, to be precise) have since had their embedding disabled. Both videos can still be watched on YouTube however and a link will take you there when you click on them. Sorry for the inconvenience. -Amy Mulvihill
I rode horses growing up, so the Triple Crown was a big deal to me. Generally indifferent to sporting events, the three-part series—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes—was my Superbowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup all rolled into one. My best friend and fellow horse nut lived across the street from me and, every year, we would gather around her TV or mine to watch the races.
The Derby is generally considered the most prestigious of the three races, but the Preakness is where champions emerge. Any horse can have a lucky race and come away with with a win at the Derby, indeed their have been many random, one-hit wonder Derby winners over the years. But to win again, under such intense scrutiny, only two weeks later, that's when you can begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
With that in mind, I spent this morning combing YouTube for what I think are the greatest Preakness races in its 139 year history. And, of course, watch tomorrow to see what new history is made.
Let's start with a local winner, Sagamore Farm's Native Dancer. Known as the Grey Ghost of Sagamore Farm, this Glyndon-trained colt won every race he ever entered except one. Unfortunately, that one was the Kentucky Derby, robbing him of a Triple Crown victory in 1953. The Preakness was his chance at redemption, and he seized the moment. After that racing season, Native Dancer retired to Sagamore Farm and became one the sport's best sires. To this day he is one of only 11 Maryland-bred colts to win a Triple Crown race. (The video below is an overview of Native Dancer's career, featuring snippets from the Preakness.)
Jumping ahead two decades, here's Secretariat's Preakness, which is incredible. Notoriously bad out of the gate, "Big Red" is last going into the first turn. And then, suddenly, he's not. Secretariat's jockey, Ronnie Turcotte, doesn't use the whip once. He didn't need it. Even without it, Secretariat was pulling away from second place Sham at the end. Poor, overshadowed Sham. It's important to note that, in any other year, the Triple Crown might have been Sham's, but he had the bad fortune to run against Secretariat, who was just that much better than everyone else. In fact, Secretariat broke the race's record that day but because of a malfunctioning timer was only officially awarded the record last year after advances in technology allowed race officials to determine an accurate time. An interesting article on the long-simmering racing controversy can be found here. (Sorry about the cheesy "inspirational" music playing in the video's background. The clean version wouldn't allow me to embed.)
The '70s saw two more Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, who won in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Seattle Slew, was trained as a two-year-old at Andor Farm in Monkton and remains the only horse to win the series with an undeafeated record. Affirmed, the most-recent Triple Crown winner, was known for his rivalry with Alydar, whom he manages to hold off in a thrilling stretch run seen below.
Now we're into my lifetime and a race I vividly remember. Racing afficianos and media types had all but given the 1989 Triple Crown to Easy Goer, a large, chestnut colt who had raced sensationally as a two-year-old. But Easy Goer lost the Derby to Sunday Silence, a black colt with a white blaze from undistinguished stock. Easy Goer's loss was attributed to the sloppy, wet track at Churchill Downs that Derby day, and many expected him to reassert his dominance at the Preakness. But Sunday Silence was a fighter. He might not have had the flashy bloodlines that Easy Goer did, but he had grit.
Finally, here's another nail-biting stretch battle won by Curlin in 2007, which saw the colt tying the track’s then-official record set by Tank's Prospect in 1985 and Louis Quatorze in 1996. Of course, last year’s revision of Secretariat’s Preakness time means that Curlin is now in a three-way tie for second-fastest Preakness ever.