BALTIMORE – Hall of Fame trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert sat side by side in the corner of the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course sizing up the Preakness.
“A lot of speed in there,” Baffert said. Lukas responded, “My horse is fast.”
“Pretty evenly matched,” Baffert said.
The banter sums up this year’s Preakness.
For the first time since 1996, the Preakness doesn’t have the Kentucky Derby winner and therefore no Triple Crown possibility, but it is one of the most wide open in recent history. Baffert-trained Improbable opened as the favorite — because, Baffert said, some horse had to be favored — and without any of the first four horses to cross the finish line at the Derby, the Preakness feels like almost anyone’s $1.5 million race to win.
“It’s wide open — there’s four or five horses that can win it,” Improbable co-owner Elliott Walden said Friday. “It’s kind of like the NCAA tournament. Just because Duke got beat, the No. 1 seed, didn’t mean they didn’t have a Final Four and it wasn’t as impactful at the Final Four.”
Unlike when Baffert brought Justify to Pimlico a year ago looking Triple Crown-caliber, this isn’t a one-horse race. Improbable and War of Will are among the legitimate contenders to become just the 19th horse in history and first since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Derby but win the Preakness and Belmont.
• Fulfilling her role as favorite, Point of Honor rallied and won Pimlico’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a half-length over Ulele. It was her third win in four career races.
• A filly, Congrats Gal, collapsed and died while running in the Miss Preakness States on Friday at Pimlico. She faltered in 83-degree heat, finished last and collapsed to the dirt 100 yards past the finish line.