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Scratch of Muth, rain caused Preakness to lose raceday luster

The Sporting Tribune's Louie Rabaut offers his reflections on Preakness 149 on Saturday that provided another thrilling finish.

BALTIMORE — Another Preakness come and gone. This weekend always passes so quickly.

I’ve expressed my affection for this weekend of races at Pimlico Race Track many times. The old building at Pimlico reminds me of the feel of old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, of many Big Ten football stadiums before they were renovated.

There’s something charming about decay when you grow up in the Rust Belt.

This Preakness lost some of its intrigue when the favorite, Muth, was scratched mid-way through the week after he had spiked a fever. Then, a new twist — the rain — reared its ugly head again, as it commonly does in Baltimore.

Heck, the Counting Crows wrote a song called “Raining In Baltimore.” It’s a thing.

All signs pointed to Mystik Dan, the Derby winner, being the biggest beneficiary of the wet weather. He had won previously — and impressively — in the Southwest Stakes in similar conditions at Oaklawn Park.

Why couldn’t he repeat that form? The answer is that he did.

Simply put, Seize The Grey and jockey Jaime Torres were the best on Saturday. And that is all a fan can ask for: The best horse on the day of the race won the race.

Seize The Grey elevates sire

Seize The Grey’s path to a win in the Preakness Stakes is an interesting one. First, his sire Arrogate, a multiple Grade 1 winning colt, passed away after three years of breeding.

Most sires of his quality would have around a decade of productivity. Instead, we got an incredibly limited set of progeny.

Arcangelo, winner of last year’s Belmont and Travers Stakes, is a son of Arrogate, who has sired two of the last three Triple Crown races.

Seize The Grey also ran in the Jeff Ruby Steaks — a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. His third-place finish wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Derby, so he settled on the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile, run at Churchill Downs on the Derby undercard.

The Mile is a full quarter-mile shorter than the Derby, so his total race was likely less taxing than the others who ran in this field. But the Ruby has produced a Derby winner (Rich Strike), a Derby runner-up (Two Phil’s) and now a Preakness Winner in the past five years.

The Ruby isn’t thought of historically as being on the level of other major preps — but no one can question its impact on the recent major race results.

Lukas is ageless at Preakness

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas won his seventh Preakness, the second-best all-time. At 88 years-old, he has an incredible touch. He’s on a pony every day and you’ll never catch him late to the track.

To quote Lukas: “That’s what it’s all about. Getting up and if you have a passion you eliminate all the excuses. That’s how it works. You get up early. You go without a meal. You drive. You go without sleep. As long as you got the passion.”

He’s 88 years young and still picking off Grade 1s. Never say never is a phrase that’s rarely true in sports — but this is darn close.

1-2-3 back on short rest

Most trainers in modern thoroughbred racing aim to space their horses’ races out to somewhere between a month and six weeks. Coming into the race, half of the eight runners were on six week’s rest. The top three in the race all ran at Churchill Downs two weeks ago.

There is a ton of consternation in horse racing circles about the spacing between Triple Crown races. This is another data point saying that a two-week turnaround isn’t a world-ender for most thoroughbreds.

Mystik Dan, the Kentucky Derby winner, ran a game second. The Derby’s fourth-place finisher ran third by a nose.

All of them ran races worthy of winning the Preakness. It also solidified the Derby Trail — at least for this year — as the top set of races for the top three year-olds.

Triple Crown drought

The biggest horse racing-related headline out of the weekend is that we will have no opportunity for a Triple Crown winner. Count me amongst those totally fine with this, as the old-heads in racing were about to scream asterisk at Saratoga.

Why? The Belmont Stakes is usually run over 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park. With major renovations at the track, the race has been moved to Saratoga and will be run at 1 1/4 miles.

To some in horse racing, this puts an asterisk on the race. Not having to go the full 12 furlongs (The Test of the Champion!) to them nullifies a challenging part of the Triple Crown.

This is all hogwash. If a horse shows up for the races designated as the Triple Crown and wins them all, then he’s the Triple Crown winner. The idea that it’s in some way the horse’s or trainer’s fault that the race has been moved to another venue is absurd.

To be fair, the people gate-keeping the Triple Crown were over 50. It ain’t like they’re running this Belmont at six furlongs and it’s time to move on.

What’s next after Preakness

We’ll sit down with Jockey Jaime Torres on Thursday for our podcast, The Horse Racing Happy Hour. He’s got a fascinating story, and it should be fun to interview the Puerto Rico-native.

We’ll also start getting ready for the Saratoga Belmont and there will be plenty of great wagering opportunities in that one.

A personal thanks

Thanks to all of you who have reached out on X and email. You can contact the Trib’s horse racing folks at TSThorseracing@gmail.com. We had the 59/1 exacta in the Preakness — and we hope you did, too.