When the Churchill Downs stewards disqualified Maximum Security, they also sacked the Preakness Stakes.
Outside of your regular racing crowd, there is little interest in the second leg of the Triple Crown, probably the least interest in decades.
Gary West, who along with his wife owns Maximum Security, decided not to run his horse so soon with no Triple Crown on the line.
Country Home, second best when the race ended (he was fading), ended up in the winner's circle. A few days later it was announced he had coughed, so he's out of the Preakness.
And that was it for Pimlico, which lives for this one race. It was exactly what the track didn't need.
Controversy surrounds Old Hilltop as it has fallen into such disarray that the Maryland Jockey Club closed 6,670 grandstand seats. There also are constant issues with parking, water (think toilets) and an overall lack of amenities.
The governor is trying to raise almost a half-billion dollars to salvage the track. Others say spend one-fourth of that at nearby Laurel Park and let the rope go on Pimlico.
Laurel gets 168 racing days, Pimlico 12.
A group of Arkansas-Memphis owners decided to spend a little extra and rent a climate-controlled tent in the infield for the Preakness. Their syndicate's horse is Warrior's Charge, and he is one of four Oaklawn horses who are expected to run.
There may not be a horse in contention for the Triple Crown, but there is one track that is still alive to produce all the Triple Crown race winners, and that is Oaklawn Park.
Laughing Fox, owned by Alex and JoAnn Lieblong, earned his spot Saturday by winning the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational. He is trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., and he's 20-1 on the morning line.
He ran twice as a 2-year-old but didn't break his maiden until opening day of Oaklawn. He won an allowance, then finished seventh in a division of the Rebel Stakes, fourth in the Arkansas Derby and won the Oaklawn Invitational by a neck.
Improbable, the morning-line favorite Saturday at 5-2, was second in a division of the Rebel, second in the Arkansas Derby and moved up to fourth in the Kentucky Derby. He's trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. There's nothing to dislike about him other than he hasn't found the winner's circle this year.
Market King also broke his maiden at Oaklawn but has been winless in four other races this year and three last year. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is not afraid, though. He was third in a division of the Rebel and 11th in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He did not qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Market King has had six different jockeys in eight races. He's a long shot at 30-1.
Which brings us back to Warrior's Charge, who sits at 12-1. Ten Strike Racing is a syndicate that owns Warrior's Charge and is managed by Clay Sanders and betting guru Marshall Gramm, an economics professor at Rhodes College in Memphis.
Warrior's Charge has run six times and never finished worst than third, but more importantly when he broke his maiden at Oaklawn he did it by more than 6 lengths. Two of the horses in that race went on to win allowance races.
On the final day at Oaklawn, he ran in an optional claiming race, but went wire to wire and won by more than 6 lengths and was pulling away. His 99 speed figure convinced trainer Brad Cox, Sanders and Gramm to take a shot.
The syndicate is going. They'll be the ones in the big tent in the infield.
Sports on 05/16/2019
Print Headline: Preakness enthusiasm died at Churchill