MIAMI, May 12, 2015--The Preakness' suffers from middle child syndrome. From the moment juveniles start coming to the fore each summer at Saratoga and Del Mar, owners, trainers, the media and fans begin speculating about which ones might be "Derby horses." No one talks about "Preakness horses" until the herd has been culled just before the Run for the Roses.


These late developers and non-Derby qualifiers almost never win the second jewel of the Triple Crown. It's only been done twice since 2001. Both were the result of extraordinary circumstances.

Super filly Rachel Alexandra, who opted for the Kentucky Oaks over the Derby, outfinished Mine That Bird, who never won another race after his Derby upset in 2009, and Bernadini won the ill-fated 2006 renewal in which then unbeaten Barbaro suffered his fatal injuries.

This year’s candidates include Divining Rod, winner of a weak Lexington, Tesio winner Budhisattva and Tale of Verve, with only a maiden win. Any of them remind you of Rachel Alexandra or Bernadini?

Meanwhile, owners and trainers, who reach for justifications to run in the Derby and finish up the track, stretch just as hard to find reasons not to run back in Baltimore.

Todd Pletcher, who runs more horses in the Derby than anyone, almost never brings one back in the Preakness. Reportedly,Materiality and Stanford from the three Pletcher ran in Louisville are still under consideration for the Preakness. If Materiality goes he has a shot off his nightmate trip in Louisville but it will be out of character for Pletcher to drop him into the entry box on Wednesday.

It appears that the only other Derby starter other than the Big Three-American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund—who is going to run back is Danzig Moon. Anyone afraid of him?

For sure, the Preakness would get a few more of the top tier of 3-year-olds if it were run a month or longer after the Derby. But is it worth upsetting a century and a half of tradition to pick up a few Derby also-rans? If not for tradition, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown wouldn't be run at the spithole that is Pimlico. Tim Ritvo is likely to do the right thing within the next few years and move it to Laurel.

I am not advocating it and it isn't going to happen but if the Triple Crown were fair and based on contemporary racing, one of the three races would be at Santa Anita. Three of the last four Derby winners and the first three finishers this year are Southern California based.

It isn’t just the Preakness that gets short changed with the two-week turnaround. The Kentucky Oaks got Alciabides winner Lovely Maria, Louisiana Oaks champion I’m a Chatterbox, Gulfstream Oaks victor Birdatthewire and Santa Anita Oaks winner Stellar Wind .The Black Eyed Susan is getting none of them.

The lack of the cream of the crop coming back from Derby weekend to run in the Preakness supporting stakes is another thing that grates the folks at Pimlico.

It's not like being the middle component of the Triple Crown doesn't have a big upside. Barring injury, which thankfully has not often reared its ugly head, the Preakness always gets racing's newest star, the Derby winner, the only horse still alive to capture the Triple Crown.

Pimlico will get its hundred thousand-plus fans Saturday. Forbes magazine reported that in the first four days after American Pharoah lived up to his billing in Louisville, ticket prices for the Preakness skyrocketed 39 percent, an indicator of the heightened interest in this year's race.

What’s wrong with that? If American Pharoah comes up short Saturday, Belmont ticket prices are likely to plunge more than 39 percent.

Remember when a super Met Mile looked like it could serve as a life saver in the event a Triple Crown wasn’t on the line? Shared Belief is out for the year. Honor Code got beat in Louisville. Palace Malice lran third in his
return on Sunday. Tonalist is a really nice horse but he’s not a crowd magnet.


NYRA has to hold its breath rooting for American Pharoah to keep a Triple Crown possibility alive for the Belmont. The difference is only tens of millions of dollars, which could affect the color of the ink when the year-end financials are tabulated.

The most curious decision of Triple Crown season is NYRA’s capping of the Belmont Stakes crowd at 90,000, especially in light of the record of more than 170,000 at Churchill Downs and the possibility of another record
crowd, well over 100,000 at Pimlico.

Last year more than 102,000 showed up at Belmont for California Chrome’s bid for a Triple Crown. Some of them are still waiting at the Belmont station for their Long Island Railroad ride home. NYRA has been saying for months that working with the LIRR, this problem has been resolved. Obviously it hasn’t been.

Then again, the easiest way to create a demand for something is to limit the supply. The Belmont Stakes cap forces the hand of those wavering about buying tickets. If they wait for the Preakness result, they could be shut out. Those shut out this year are more likely to purchase early in subsequent years.

You have to like American Pharoah’s chances in Baltimore. Bob Baffert has said he considers the Preakness the easiest of the Triple Crown races.

American Pharoah’s stock rose Saturday without him leaving the barn. Madefromlucky toyed with four opponents in the Peter Pan. He loafed toward the rear until starting his move on the far turn. At the top of the stretch, he still had only one horse beaten. But once in gear, he ran past the pack as if they were tied to a pole.

In his two previous starts, in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby, Madefromlucky was not in the same zip code with American Pharoah. So much for the theory that the Derby winner was beating nothing in the preps.

The game is still about betting, so it’s hard to get excited about an odds-on favorite.But there are plenty of races to make decisions for the pocket. For the good of the game, I’ll be rooting hard Saturday for American Pharoah.I’ll be surprised if I’m disappointed.