Say what you will about what the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes represent in terms of race prestige, but every trainer knows the importance of the Preakness.
Every trainer knows that the best of the three-year-old crop usually wins the Preakness and history supports the claim.
In fact, its last 10 winners went on to be named the three-year-old champion, and the filly Rachel Alexandra was crowned 2009’s Horse of the Year as well.
According to Hall Of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, "It legitimizes a horse. The field size is manageable, so no one gets compromised by tough trips, and coming out of the Derby, you know who the real horses are. The best in the crop win this race.”
So let us start right there with Bob Baffert.
Today, Baffert seeks his sixth Preakness win as he looks to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown for the second consecutive year. Last year, Baffert saddled Lookin at Lucky for his fifth win.
Today the great trainer brings the Derby's 16th place finisher in Midnight Interlude. The Santa Anita Derby champion is not considered a threat today in Baltimore, but Baffert does believe that Animal Kingdom is as good as advertised.
"The way he ran in the Derby,” Baffert said of Animal Kingdom’s victory. “He got on the outside, and it looked like he was just getting going.
"When they win like that, which means they can come back and they will repeat that, he’s peaking. He’s in the zone. Horses that win like that, you can keep them for two weeks like that."
Baffert finished by saying, "This is the easiest of the three to win.”
Graham Motion, who trains Derby winner Animal Kingdom, knows that many of the legendary trainers in the paddock this week still view his horse's win as a fluke, but he is confident and likes the odds winning the Derby represent in Baltimore.
The Preakness is as close to a sure thing of the three Triple Crown races as 70 favorites have won in its 135-year history.
Many of the trainers believe the early slow pace was the reason Animal Kingdom prevailed and the trainers of Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In, Nick Zito still thinks his horse the best.
Zito, who has won the Preakness just once with Louis Quatorze in 1996 and was inducted into National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2005 said, “I still think and not because I have him, that he’s (Dialed In) still the best 3-year-old."
The hottest trainer in Baltimore this week in terms of saddling up Preakness winners is Steve Asmussen.
Asmussen has won two of the last five Preakness Stakes. He made history with the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009, when she became the first filly in 89 years to win the Preakness.
His first Preakness win came in 07 with Curlin. Today, he brings the horse Astrology to Baltimore. Never worse than third in seven career starts, Astrology has finished second in his two races this year.
The best feel good story of this year’s Triple Crown series belongs to the trainer of Mucho Macho Man. Back in 2008, Kathy Ritvo watched the Kentucky Derby on television with her cardiologist in the critical care unit of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Suffering from cardiomyopathy, or a severe deterioration of the heart muscle, Ritvo was in the first month of an interminable wait for a donor.
She spent the next six months hooked up to an intravenous machine that provided medication to keep her heart functioning, uncertain whether she would live to see another Derby.
Much of that time, she was confined to Jackson Memorial as the search for a donor continued.
Finally, on Nov. 13, 2008, a donor was found. She underwent surgery for 17 hours to replace a heart that had been so damaged, her surgeon told her she might not have survived the week.
“I’m as tough as they come,” said Ritvo, 41. “But I had suffered so much for so long, even I had gotten to the point where I was prepared to die."
Ritvo believes her horse has a great chance in Baltimore today.
Ritvo says that Mucho Macho Man is a better horse than he was two weeks ago in Kentucky.
“I think he’ll be sharper, more aggressive,” Ritvo said. “He seems to get along at any racetrack, any surface. Bring it on. He’s ready. Animal Kingdom’s a very nice horse. I like him, but I love the way my horse is training.”
What does history say about trainers? It says that the great are always in attendance and you can never count them or their horses out in big races. However, history does say that If Animal Kingdom is going to be beaten, it will be by one of his rivals from Churchill Downs.
In the past 20 years, only three horses that did not run in the Derby showed up at Pimlico and defeated the Derby champion.
I will end the video selection with the 1978 Preakness when Affirmed beat Alydar.