2011 Preakness Stakes: 10 Most Memorable Preakness Runnings
There have been many great Preakness runnings over the past 14 decades, from Survivor's 10-length score in 1873 to Lookin at Lucky a little less than 12 months ago.
Obviously, I've never seen Survivor's scintillating run, and I'll venture a guess that none of you have seen it either. So this list has to have some limitations.
I've decided to limit this list to only include the 65 runnings since the end of World War II, from the pride of Texas, Assault, in 1946 to Lookin At Lucky's triumph in Preakness 135. The television era, you can call it, even though television did not become widespread until the dawn of the 1950s.
Still, these are the Preaknesses that have spanned our lifetimes and those of our immediate family members, the races where even if we weren't around we can still catch footage and pretend like we were.
I wasn't around for half of this list and barely around for another race, but through the magic of YouTube and television, I can pretend like I was. These races are timeless.
Anyway, here are the 10 most memorable Preakness Stakes of the past 65 years.
10. Rachel Alexandra (2009)
Eighty-five years. That's a chunk of change if I've ever seen it. Eighty-five years between fillies winning the Preakness.
But Rachel Alexandra stamped herself a force to be reckoned with on that third Saturday in May, rousing to the lead under Calvin Borel up the backstretch, drawing clear, and holding off a late run from Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
Her legend only grew, and thinking back, this is one of the least memorable of Rachel Alexandra's races.
Her giant heart to win the Woodward will never be forgotten.
The class she showed in dismantling both the Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose fields was almost unmatched.
But even still, the Preakness is the Preakness, and it'll be hard to forget Rachel Alexandra overcoming tradition in taking the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.
9. Nashua (1955)
Swaps was too good for Nashua at Churchill Downs. Nashua drew alongside in the stretch, but Willie Shoemaker turned him away and went on win the 81st Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately for race fans, Swaps didn't go to Pimlico.
But that could only have been fortunate for Swaps.
Despite constant urging by Eddie Arcaro, Nashua just didn't seem to want to win, refusing to pull away from Saratoga through much of the stretch. But finally, in the final sixteenth of a mile, he drew clear. The time on the board was 1:54 and 3/5, more than a second off of Tom Fool's track record and Capot's Preakness record times.
If he wanted to, he could have won even quicker, and the time stood until Venezuela's Canonero II in 1971.
Nashua didn't look back, taking the Belmont and finally earning revenge on Swaps in a match-race in Chicago.
Sadly, this race is no longer on YouTube.
8. Greek Money (1962)
(Video won't upload correctly; click here to watch the race)
Ridan led almost the entire way, surrendering command for the first time at the top of the stretch after Greek Money slid through at the rail.
It was Greek Money turning for home, at least briefly. By the furlong pole, Ridan was back in front under Manny Ycaza, and with a sixteenth to go it looked like he would pull away for a comfortable win.
But an extra twist came, as all of a sudden Greek Money found some more. He roared back and nipped Ridan at the wire.
Yet the race still wasn't over.
Ycaza launched a claim of foul against Greek Money's jockey John Rotz. It may have been the dumbest moment of Ycaza's life.
Not just did the stewards find no fault in Rotz or his horse, they determined that in fact Ycaza reached out over Rotz's horse and elbowed him in the chest.
Ycaza was suspended 10 racing dates as a result, reduced to 10 calendar days on appeal after Rotz claimed he didn't think Ycaza was trying to foul him.
Oh, and he was fined $200 for his "frivolous" claim of foul.
7. Secretariat (1973)
(Same as last slide. Click here for video.)
As is always the case when it comes to Secretariat, everything that can be said has been said.
Just watch his mystical move on the far turn and enjoy.
6. Silver Charm (1997)
Silver Charm drove up to the throatlatch of Freehouse with a quarter mile to go in the 1997 Preakness, but never until the final strides could he get his nose in front.
Freehouse on the inside, game, Silver Charm, the Kentucky Derby winner, driving under Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Captain Bodgit flying late. Touch Gold, who stumbled at the start, may have been able to make it a four-horse mad scramble if he had come out cleanly.
All the way through the stretch, the Preakness was up for grabs.
Finally, as if the wire were placed where it was with Silver Charm in mind, Stevens was able to rouse his mount up to win the closest Preakness finish since World War I.
5. Native Dancer (1953)
For a brief moment in the stretch drive of the 1953 Preakness, it looked like Native Dancer was going to lose again. He had already lost the Kentucky Derby by a diminishing head to long-shot Dark Star, but never did owner Alfred Vanderbilt consider the possibility that his superstar wouldn't win his home race, the Preakness.
In between the two classics, Native Dancer, who is sometimes blamed for the fragility of today's thoroughbreds, took the Withers Stakes, an unheard of occurrence in today's world of extended layoffs and complaints about the time between the short rest between the Derby and Preakness.
But it looked like the Dancer might just make it 0-for-2 in the classics, struggling to get to Derby winner Dark Star until the home straight. But he never drew clear, as Jamie K ran on and tried to get to him.
And get to him he nearly did.
Native Dancer held on bravely to win by a desperate neck, finally winning a classic race.
When he retired a year later, he had 21 wins from 22 starts. Only the Derby had alluded him.
4. Smarty Jones (2004)
A special race from a special horse.
Everyone sensed that we had a great race on our hands as Smarty Jones and Lion Heart locked horns turning for home. Everyone was correct, but for the wrong reasons.
Lion Heart faded. Smarty Jones drew clear. And it was only history he was up against.
Every stride, every link on the rail, Smarty Jones drew more clear. He left 11 1/2 lengths between the wire and any other three-year-old, breaking the record 10-length victory set by Survivor way back in the very first Preakness Stakes. Seven years later, and my jaw still drops each time I see him run.
It was a race alright, and it was Smarty Jones who won, beating history, the only other legit challenger.
3. Afleet Alex (2005)
If Afleet Alex had gone down like almost any other reasonable thoroughbred would have under the same circumstances, Scrappy T would most certainly have been disqualified and Giacomo would have taken a tainted victory all the way to Belmont for a chance at a Triple Crown that would have destroyed horse racing's credibility.
But Afleet Alex wasn't a reasonable thoroughbred. Not on this day at least.
Not for that final quarter mile after Scrappy T brushed over and seemingly tried to take out his biggest rival for the prize.
Afleet Alex buckled down to his ankles, but there was no stopping the king. He jumped right back up and within 50 yards was back in full stride, hitting the lead before the furlong pole.
He charged by Scrappy T and didn't look back. There was no stopping Afleet Alex on this day.
2. Affirmed (1978)
While their Belmont will always be remembered as the epitome of racing's most classic rivalry, the war waged at Pimlico between Affirmed and Alydar was remarkable in its own right.
Alydar could never get by Affirmed, try as he might, the two running the same speed for the final three-eighths of a mile.
The difference was the narrow lead Affirmed held entering the far turn, keeping Alydar at bay, toying with him even.
While Magic and Larry was the rivalry that gripped the nation over the next decade, for one great spring in 1978 and over 10 races in a year and a half, it was these famous colts.
Three times it was Alydar and Affirmed, but the other seven, including all three Triple Crown races, it was Affirmed and Alydar.
1. Sunday Silence (1989)
Not just is this the greatest Preakness of all time, but this is the greatest race ever in America, rivaled worldwide maybe only by the 1986 Cox Plate, and that's a big maybe.
Sunday Silence the outer, Easy Goer the rail, hooking up at the top of the stretch and just staring each other down through the entirety of the Pimlico home stretch.
Just staring at each other, as if waiting for the other to blink.
Neither blinked, and what we were left with was the greatest race of all time.
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