5-18-09: Preakness 134 Thoughts

Hello again everybody...

Hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was definitely a mixed bag. The Sports Take Preakness Streak is officially in effect. For the second consecutive year, I've given you, my dear readers, the winner of the Preakness Stakes. No, it wasn't a tough call (and truth be told, due to her low odds, I didn't bet her to win - and thanks to Mine That Bird, I missed on my exacta), but a winner is a winner is a chicken dinner!

On the baseball side of things? Oof. I'm trying desperately to convince myself that the pain of the Twins' 3 straight losses in New York is mitigated by the fact that all 3 were well-played, quality ballgames.

So far, I've been unsuccessful.

I'll get to the Twins later in the week. But today, it's my 20/20 hindsight on Preakness 134. Let's talk about it...

"Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book."
- Edward Gibbon (1737 - 1794), English historian and Member of Parliament

Gibbon exaggerates just a touch. The author of "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" attended Oxford for a spell, so unless he was sculling the entire time, I'm guessing he picked up a tip or two on the "arts of composition".

Still, I feel a certain kinship with him, as I've said much the same about myself in terms of writing this column. I enjoy doing it. And several people have told me that they enjoy my work. But when it comes down to it, I really haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing, and am just winging it 3 days a week for your reading pleasure!

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Speaking of things I know just enough about to be dangerous, Preakness 134 is in the books and it's time to discuss.

She did it.

Rachael Alexandra won the 2009 Preakness defeating a field of 12 colts. The last time a filly did that in a Triple Crown race was in 2007 when Rags to Riches won the Belmont. The last time a filly did that in the Preakness was in 1924 when Nellie Morse showed the boys how it was done.

Ultimately, RA's win shows that sometimes races go to form. Sometimes you can look at the past performances and determine who the best horse in the race is and then watch that horse win. Sure, her low odds meant that the payout was low (she paid $5.60 to a $2 win wager, as opposed to the $103.20 that Mine That Bird payed to a $2 win wager in the Derby), but if you feel strong about the favorite winning the race, that allows you to focus on finding the right composition of horses in your exactas and trifectas and perhaps find some value there. (The exacta paid $39.20 to a $2 bet, and the tri paid $216.20 to a $2 bet - definitely some value in those bets.)

Which brings us to the second place finisher in Preakness 134: Mine That Bird. And that also brings us to another edition of The Official Sports Take Apology.

I'd like to take this opportunity to officially apologize for disrespecting Mine That Bird in my Preakness Preview column. It's rare that a horse can put together that type of resume prior to the Derby and then somehow step up and perform at a consistently high level amongst the elite competition in the Triple Crown races. But apparently Mine That Bird is that kind of horse.

And if it wasn't for the wide trip he got around the final turn, it's possible that he might have won the Preakness and be in line for a Triple Crown shot. If you watch a replay of the race, MTB is clearly gaining on Rachael Alexandra as they cross the finish line.

As impressive as RA's effort was, she got her ideal trip. MTB didn't. It almost makes his second place finish more impressive. But in the end it's a bottom-line business, and RA did win the race. And she deserves all the credit in the world for that effort.

The finish of Preakness 134 does set up an interesting scenario going forward. I've said it before, and I'll stand by it: the best thing that could happen to horse racing is for a horse to win the Triple Crown. That's obviously out the window for 2009.

(Aside: Sort of. If we've created the Tiger Slam to describe what Tiger Woods did in winning 4 consecutive Majors, even though they weren't all in the same calendar year, then can't we create the Rachael Crown to describe what RA could potentially do in winning the Kentucky Oaks (the filly version of the Derby), the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes? No, it's not technically a Triple Crown, but it's still damned impressive.)

But perhaps the second best thing that could happen to horse racing would be for two quality horses to battle it out in a rubber match at the Belmont. MTB has won a Triple Crown race, and RA has won a Triple Crown race. So let's match 'em up again at the Belmont and see who the best of the best really is. That would get some non-traditional horse racing fans excited and get them out to the track, right?

MTB's connections have already said he'll be pointed at the Belmont. And barring some unforeseen injury, he'll be in the field in New York. RA on the other hand, is in wait-and-see mode. Her new owner Jess Jackson seems like the kind of guy who would be thrilled by the prospect of a mano-e-filly showdown between MTB and RA at the Belmont. But so far all he and trainer Steve Ausmussen have said is that RA looked good coming out of the Preakness and that they'll consult with each other after a few days and a breeze or two and then make a decision.

(Horse Racing Term Alert! "Breeze" - basically it's horse calisthenics. It's not a full timed workout. Instead it's a chance for the horse to get on the track, run around a little and stretch out their muscles.)

The fans want to see it. MTB's trainer Chip Woolley has indicated that he'd like to see it. Hopefully Rachael Alexandra returns to form quickly and everybody gets what they want!

So there you have it. All I do is give you Preakness winners! At least for the last two years anyway. We'll see if I can extend the streak next year!

That's all for today. Tune in on Wednesday when a question I got last week brings us the return of the Sports Take-tionary!

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. I watched the Preakness on my TV, with the family. As an aside, just prior to post, the doorbell rang (it was the babysitter). I said "Come on in, The Preakness is on in like five minutes." She said, "What's that?" I said, "The second-most-famous horserace in the world." She said, "Oh? What's the first?"

    (she did say, after watching the race, that it was pretty cool)

    So, the jockey on MTB, do you suppose he's wondering, "If I had started him just 4 seconds earlier, would he have run out of gas, or won?"

    I know I'm wondering that.

  2. They asked the jockey on MTB that very question, and his response was, "I thought I started him at the right time."

    I think wide trip he took was more detrimental than the time at which the jockey started asking him.

    Here's another teaser: if Calvin Borel had been on MTB instead of RA, would MTB have gotten a trip closer to the rail, and saved enough time to actually catch RA.

    Teaser 2: if RA's connections decide *not* to run her in the Belmont, does Calvin get back on MTB?