Historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, blessed with ideal weather and a record crowd of 115,318 today, hosted a tremendously thrilling edition of the 130th running of the $1,000,000 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes as post time favorite Afleet Alex overcame near disaster to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.
3.30-1 favorite Afleet Alex and jockey Jeremy Rose came flying around the far turn with dead aim on the leader, 18.70-1 pacesetter High Limit, when he was suddenly blocked. 13.30 shot Scrappy T, racing in front of him entering the lane, suddenly bore out in response to left-handed whipping by jockey Ramon Dominguez. In a flash Afleet Alex stumbled, buckled to his knees and almost unseated jockey Rose at the 3/16 pole. The agile colt and his 26-year-old pilot quickly recovered their balance, dove inside Scrappy T and charged to a widening 4-3/4 length victory. Kentucky Derby winner and 6.00-1 third choice Giacomo rallied to take third and 21.10-1 longshot Sun King finished fourth.
The winner paid $8.60. He topped a $152.60 exacta, a $872 triple and a $10,362.30 superfecta. Results chart from DRF
The record crowd surpassed last year's total of 112,668. Another 10,369 enjoyed the race at Laurel Park giving a total for both sites of 125,687, another record. The handle on today's card reached $85,251,004. The $58,028,728 wagered on the Preakness itself does not include the separate pool. Maryland Jockey Club officials anticipate that number to be around $2.5 million. Over $11 million was bet in-state for the first time ever on Preakness day.
"He was just that athletic and I was just that scared", said jockey Jeremy Rose as he galloped back to the winners' circle aboard the Northern Afleet colt. Later, he added, "Around the first turn I tried to get down, on the backside I was about two or three wide, saw a horse trying to make a move to get past on the outside, so I got back in. It was a really well executed trip by Alex for the most part. I just kind of followed his lead. It wasn't so much my athleticism, as it was Alex. He could have very easily went down and he we could have been run over by the field. There was quite a bit of contact. Bumping is not a big deal. Clipping is a huge deal in racing. We clipped probably his right heal with our left front. That's one of the worst things that can happen in racing, clipping heels."
Winning trainer Tim Ritchey said, "He did something champions do today. I saw the 23 (time for the initial quarter set by High Limit) and I saw where Jeremy was, I thought we were in perfect shape. Jeremy when he first started riding, really had to learn how to judge pace and he has come a long way in a quick time, because he did an outstanding job judging where he needed to be. I think he'll go a mile and a half without a problem. I always have. Ever since I had him as a two-year-old in the Breeder's Cup. So as long as he comes out of the race, we've got three weeks to prepare him for the Belmont."
Jan Reeves of ownership group Cash is King Stable said, "I just can't believe it. Obviously I'm very emotional. I'm so proud of Tim and Afleet Alex and Jeremy. We're a big family. Words can't explain how I feel, I'm so thankful." Fellow co-owner Joe Judge added, "Each time I think it's getting good, it just gets better. So we've been riding for a long time. The support of everybody out there for Alex is unbelievable. The credit really goes to Tim, Jeremy and Alex. What can I say?"
Ramon Dominguez aboard second place finisher Scrappy T said, "My horse felt like he was looking around when we came into the stretch, but I wasn't expecting him to have any problems. When I hit him left-handed, he didn't like it and came out unexpectedly. It completely caught me off guard. I didn't feel a bump, but he did lose his rear action. I'm just happy me and Jeremy didn't come off. He clipped my heels. Once he went by, we got it straightened out. He was running so straight up to that point. It's still hard for me to believe he did something like that. We were in a great spot prior to that."
John Shirreffs, trainer of third place finisher Giacomo, said, "I don't think there was any embarrassment in running third in the Preakness. We were pleased with the effort. Mike Smith said he had a little trouble getting through at one point. The horse doesn't accelerate real way and he had trouble getting to the opening. He wins the Derby and comes back to run third in the Preakness. I think that says a lot about Giacomo. Mike Smith said he had a lot of horse at the wire. He was full of run."