Last year I was able to attend the Belmont Stakes; this year I was invited to the Preakness. On both occasions, I found myself out of my comfort zone as I mingled with owners and breeders of thoroughbred elite.
The Preakness is held in Baltimore, Maryland, at Pimlico Race Course. The big race runs near the end of the day, pitting top three-year-old racehorses against each other on a mile and three-sixteenths dirt track. The winner receives prize money, a replica of the Woodlawn Vase, and a name in racing history.
The story behind the official Woodlawn Vase is fascinating. According to race history it was “Created by Tiffany and Company in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association. The Woodlawn Vase stands 34 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds, 12 ounces and is presented each year to the winning Preakness owner. In 1983, its value was assessed at $1 million, which easily makes it the most valuable trophy in American sports.
Until 1953, winners were awarded possession of the vase until the following Preakness. That all changed when A. G. Vanderbilt’s Native Dancer won it but his wife did not want to take on the immense responsibility of keeping the solid silver vase safe. Now the winning owner is awarded a $30,000 sterling silver replica while the original is on display at The Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico under guard for the annual running of the Preakness.”
This year the 139th running of the Preakness on May 17, 2014, was warm and breezy. California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby, was the talk of the crowd. Should he win again, he would be entered in the Belmont and attempt to achieve the elusive Triple Crown title.
I entered the Clubhouse wearing a hat, as most women do. The tables were decorated in yellow and black, the official colors of the race and the state of Maryland. As the afternoon races proceeded, I bet a whopping $5.00 on each race and was actually ahead. We dined on a scrumptious meal featuring Baltimore crab cakes- my favorite. Everyone sipped the official drink, a Black-eyed Susan, in official Preakness glasses. But, honestly everyone was just waiting for the big race.
Seated at my table were breeders of the number 7 horse, Kid Cruz, running in the Stakes. How cool would it be to watch their faces and see their horse win?
I placed two exacta bets on what I hoped would be the one-two finishers. My first bet was on Kid Cruz to win and California Chrome to come in second and my second bet was the opposite. If Kid Cruz wasn’t going to win, I wanted Chrome.
The pageantry commenced, Maryland, My Maryland (the state song) was sung, the majestic horses entered the track and paraded around. Then they entered the starting gate, the announcer called, “And, they’re off,” and the race began.
California Chrome, wearing the nasal strip, got off well–running in second place as he passed my windowed view. He stayed just off the pace as he did in the Kentucky Derby, running in third. He made his move at the three-quarter mile mark, and then pulled away from Social Inclusion down the stretch to win in 1:54.84. Not the fastest race, but the spectators went crazy.
California Chrome stepped into the winner’s circle and was draped in a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans. Trophies were awarded.
I watched as a painter was lifted up to the top of the replica Old Clubhouse copula by a cherry picker crane. He began to paint the weather vane in the colors of the winner’s silks – purple and green. They will remain until the 2015Preaknesswinner is crowned.
So, now California Chrome hopes to become the first winner of the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Race records indicate that 12 other horses have won the first two races since then, but failed to dominate the long course at Belmont. Let’s face it: It is really tough to win the Triple Crown. Winning the Kentucky Derby, coming back in just two weeks and winning the Preakness, and then going 1 1/2 miles three weeks later, a distance few if any horses will ever run again, is no easy feat.
But, California Chrome is not a typical million-dollar racehorse. Owners Perry Martin from California, and Steve Coburn of Nevada, named themselves DAP Racing, standing for “Dumb-Ass Partners.” It’s ” a tongue-in-cheek response to those who questioned their wisdom in purchasing the horse’s dam, Love The Chase, an $8,000 mare and mating her with a $2,500 sire.
Can he do it? I hope so. Can’t wait to watch the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes – 4:30pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
Disclosure: Attendance at this event was made possible by the generosity of a good friend.