2007 Preakness Stakes Recap

May 29, 2007 by
Filed under: Triple Crown 

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Curlin wins the 132nd Preakness Stakes
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A roar went up as the horses were loaded into the starting gate for the 132nd Preakness Stakes and, standing in section TT at the end of the grandstand, I had a moment of concern that the cheering was so loud that the noise would cause the horses to bolt. However, as loud as it was at the start of the race, that sound paled in comparison to the deafening roar of approval from the record crowd of 121,263 not much more than a minute later as the horses raced down the stretch to the finish line.

At first the roar was for seeing Street Sense take control in the stretch and to seemingly capture the second leg of the Triple Crown. Then the roar grew as we saw a determined Curlin begin to reel in the Kentucky Derby winner and, as they approached the finish line, first draw even and then in the final stride get a head in front as they crossed the wire.

It was an exciting race and a stirring finish. The final time of 1:53 2/5 equalled the Preakness Stakes record set by Tank’s Prospect in 1985 and matched by Louis Quatorze in 1996. (What about Secretariat, you ask? His official time is recorded as 1:54 2/5, although that time is disputed. Daily Racing Form clockers in the press box and a review of the videotape support a winning time of 1:53 2/5 – the same as Curlin and the other two co-holders of the record). Both Curlin and runner-up Street Sense received 111 Beyer Speed Figures. Street Sense earned a 110 for his win in the Kentucky Derby.

How the race was run

As expected, Xchanger and Flying First Class were burned out battling for the early lead and finished at the back of the pack.

Hard Spun was perfectly placed three lengths behind the front-runners through the first half mile. When jockey Mario Pino felt C P West gaining ground to his outside he chose to make his move then rather than risk being trapped inside behind the tiring leaders and the impending moves from the closers. Hard Spun easily took command into the far turn and led the field to the top of the stretch. While he was no match for the top two finishers, Hard Spun did stay on well to finish third, only four lengths behind.

There has been some criticism of Pino’s ride and, in fact, owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones have decided to switch to Garrett Gomez for the Belmont Stakes. I don’t think the criticism is justified. Pino was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. If he doesn’t move, he gets trapped on the rail behind the rapidly decelerating leaders with the rest of the field moving past him on the outside and he probably finishes worse than third. And gets criticised even more for not moving soon enough. A jockey’s life is a hard life for sure. The truth is that Hard Spun was no match for the top two and finished as well as could be expected.

Street Sense ran as close to a perfect race as you can and still not win. Once again he dropped back early, rated patiently for three-quarters of a mile, then made a bold move between horses coming out of the final turn and drew away to a clear lead in midstretch. Unfortunately, according to jockey Calvin Borel, he “got to gawking 40 yards from home and he just got outrun.” I believe that’s cajun-speak for “he stopped paying attention to what he was doing and let the other horse catch him”. Despite the mental lapse at the end, it was a strong follow-up performance to his Kentucky Derby win.

If anything, Curlin “out-Street Sensed” Street Sense. I expected Curlin to sit fourth or fifth, get the first move on Hard Spun in the stretch and have to fight off a hard closing Street Sense. Courtesy of a stumble out of the gate, Curlin ended up at the back of the pack just a couple of lengths ahead of Street Sense. While Curlin remained unhurried through six furlongs, it was Street Sense who made the first move on Hard Spun and took the lead in the stretch and it was a hard-charging Curlin that was running best of all at the end to run down Street Sense at the wire.

Anyone else run well?

Um, no.

I was most disappointed in Circular Quay who I expected to show a closing kick more in line with his resounding victory in the Louisiana Derby. Instead we got the same lackluster finish as in the Kentucky Derby. Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I bet on him.

The rest of the field showed little or nothing.

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