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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

PREAKNESS 145 PRODUCES A FEEL GOOD STORY, JUST NOT THE ONE MANY FANS EXPECTED

For the sheer sport of it, the Pandemic Preakness of 2020 was great theater, a celebration of Thoroughbred racing at its highest level.

A pair of top ranked three-year-olds, one a colt, the other a filly, asserting their dominance at the end of a Triple Crown classic, separated by a long nose—and 10 lengths ahead of the third horse.

The show put on by Swiss Skyrider and Authentic was a fitting conclusion to a memorable Triple Crown season, whatever its schedule, whatever its timing, whatever the Belmont Stakes distance.

It was what it was.

And what it was, was a divisional-leading Tiz the Law underscoring his ranking with a comprehensive, ruling victory of his rivals in the mile and an eighth “Prep of the Champion.”

Then it was the divisional leader losing narrowly to Authentic, the best horse on that day, under Hall of Fame handling from Johnny Velazquez, one of the sport’s best ever, drilled to the minute by a Hall of Famer who crammed stamina into his athletic star.

Finally, it was a throwback filly, making her ninth start of the year at the highest levels—think about that for a moment—over nine disparate venues, handling every one of them the same, with grit and class, saving her best for last.

Never mind that she was a dominant Alabama winner, or a gallant Blue Grass and Kentucky Oaks runnerup; she went eyeball to eyeball with a Kentucky Derby winner, bringing the race to him then staring him down the length of the stretch at Old Hilltop.

MJC photo

Maybe it was the unusual Fall timing, or the fact that Tiz the Law deferred, but the 2020 Preakness lacked the usual buzz even with a divisional-leading filly meeting the new divisional-leading colt.

Fans and media were left with anticipating a feel-good story and bought into it; redemption for a badly timed misfortune that kept the Blue Grass winner out of the Louisville starting gate, and for a trainer’s trainer thrust into an unaccustomed spotlight.

And that’s what everyone got, a feel-good story, only it wasn’t the tale of Tom Drury. What fans got was a jockey in the fourth quarter of his career, all but forgotten except for a hard-boot horsemen compelled to reach out for an old team-mate at time of entry.

A brilliant race ride won the 2020 Kentucky Derby. A brilliant—and daring—race ride won the Preakness.

When the retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey was at the peak of his career, he was noted for getting “a rail pass.” How could he get through inside so easily, so often?

“I had an opportunity, a split second to take advantage of the rail because Johnny was sitting off the fence,” Albarado told a national audience. “I made a conscious decision on the backside, it’s give- or-take now… I said let me try and make this Jerry Bailey move and win.”

It was the right move at the right time in the right place; a classic, defeating a Kentucky Derby winner, just as he had done aboard Curlin in the 2007 Preakness with its narrow, hard-earned defeat of Street Sense.

The worst criticism jockeys can get is that they moved too soon. But it’s no surprise that Albarado had the guts to make such a daring move. He knew what he had beneath him, knew if he went around instead of inside, the colt might have gotten brave up front.

He trusted the instincts he developed when he galloped his first horse at age 9. At 47, his reaction time is still sharp, not bad for a rider who had part of his skull replaced with titanium mesh and polymer plate, the result of a fracture over two decades ago.

And two years after that, Albarado suffered another bad accident, one that kept him on the ground for more than a year.

Now it’s 20 years later and Albarado can count a Preakness-winning filly, one with a remarkable blend of speed, versatility, staying power and high class, among his more than 5,200 career winners.

Who knows? His gambit aboard Swiss Skyrider might be enough to get him elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame one day, just as his Preakness ride thrust his filly’s name into the conversation for Horse of the Year.

The 2020 Breeders’ Cup is the next big thing to think about for everyone who is tethered to the game. Talk about perfect timing.

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48 Responses

  1. Swiss Skydiver’s gutty performance was inspiring and we’ll deserved. Albarado’s ride was the winning move. Fitting end to a unique Triple Crown season.

  2. TP,

    She really is special, for her constitution as much for her compact confirmation, speed and versatility. Interesting to see where she goes from here…

  3. JP, Wonderful posting and I was happy to see Swiss Skydiver win yesterday in B-more. Can you, no rush, explain why TG (Gaffalione) took off the filly to remain in KY? Why wouldn’t he stay with the horse that brought him to the big dance? And I checked Equibase Results and saw that he did not win any races on Saturday at Keeneland. He won Preakness last year with WOW and he might have had a 2nd consecutive one with SSD. It’s hard to figure out. Plus, as her regular rider during such a great year it’s kind of weird (to me). McPeek should let Albarado have first call on her from here on out. But I may be missing something and that’s why I’m asking. Thanks. Really enjoyed the posting.

  4. Thanks for the props, C.

    Think it was Randy Moss who explained it yesterday, or JD, one of them. Tyler gave McPeek a two race commitment; the Oaks and Preakness. But the trainer didn’t make up his mind to run until–I believe–the day before the draw, or even day of… so Tyler and his agent didn’t think she wasn’t going to run and they committed to lots of live outfits at Keeneland. Plus, with Covid protocols, he would lose some days on the ground.

    I think they made the right decision given the scenario… stuff happens.

  5. In a year there is not much to get excited about this filly got me excited. Thrilling stretch drive on the inside of the derby winner and refused to let him go by. Breathless. Now do you go to the Distaff or take a reasonable shot at 7 million and the classic.

    1. Not sure what the right thing is but McPeek said Sunday that they are giving the Classic some thought. If Horse of the Year is the prize, should she win the Distaff and either Improbable or Tiz the Law wins the Classic, I think they would have the edge, it’s a tough call. But, compared to the world, it’s a nice problem to have…

  6. Man that Preakness was such a great race. I needed Authentic to hit my P4 and I still wasn’t mad (it wasn’t going to be life changing money to say the least). Swiss Skydiver showed so much heart and toughness fighting off Authentic while being between a colt leaning on her and the rail. That intimidation usually works against a young filly. She was having none of it.

    Running the second fastest Preakness (and fastest by an animal of this planet), is amazing and does show you how big Authentic ran as well. Maybe Johnny V would do something slightly different given another chance, but nothing should take away from what we saw.

    On another note, despite not having any luck on Preakness Day, I closed out the weekend with the late P3 at Belmont yesterday. Not posting it to brag (i got hammered on Saturday pretty thoroughly), but merely to show the value available in the multis when you can beat an overbet horse like Dunbar Road. The P3 winners went off at 7/1, 8.5/1, and 2.4/1, and the $1 payoff was $554.50. (Not bad for a $12 ticket.) The parlay with zero takeout I believe is around 237/1. Just something to think about when you have a Dunbar Road that you know will be bet way harder than her TG figs merit.

  7. Mazel Tov, Doc, way to save your weekend. And of course that was the proper strategy to play that horizontal when you thought you could beat and extremely heavy favorite, and not just because you won. A lot for a little is always good strategy and Pick 3 far less degree of difficulty.

    Now, when you said you lost the Preakness P4 photo and weren’t mad, you exposed yourself as a true fan. I’m only that generous when I know the people involved in a finish personally and are happy when they win–although the occasional schadenfreude does have it’s place (lol).

    The Preakness was a great race, so was the Derby for the same reason, though there wasn’t a filly involved. But it was easily the most exciting of the TC series.

    Didn’t mind losing. WMC must think you’re crazy. If you are, that’s my kind of crazy. Loved the sentiment…

  8. Haha true. I think the fact that a filly running in the Preakness got my gf interested in watching made it more enjoyable to have SSD hold off Authentic. She was so happy that it was hard for me to feel negative in any way about the race. it was such a great stretch battle, and yes, good enough to be one of the rare times when you’re fully in the moment instead of having the bet on your mind.

  9. R E S P E C T , that was the word that came to mind as we were rooting for both Equines and Gentlemen riders..Never mind that the exacta was in hand,one of four bets, because both veteran riders, the oldest in the race,with experiences and successes to sell and without any assumption since they`ve seen them all,both horses ,trainers ,owners and bettors,in several big time tracks.,winters,summers and falls. Satisfying ending with Albarado grabbing the inside which was surprising to see that JV hesitated ,staying out in the middle,that is. taking the longer route home. The young lady HAD the Numbers,Period ! Great week,meet ,really, for Jose’ Lexcano and fine week end x my other fav Jockey,Junior Alvarado,a Hall of Famer. Nice to see that there is a bug boy ready to be the fall-winter sensation. Until the Breeders Cup i shall stay put and out.

  10. Bits, I’m sure Junior would love to be in the Hall of Fame; he’s still working on that.

    Jose sells his name Lezcano.

    This is about the fourth or fifth pseudonym associated with this account.

    Please take a little better care of the facts, spelling and punctuation, showing some respect for the HRI audience.

    If you cannot do that the next time, you can, in your words, “stay put and out.” This really your choice, not mine.

  11. John: Swiss Skydiver reminds this old man of Genuine Risk. I was at the Big A for the Wood when GR ran third to Tommy Kelly’s duo of Plugged Nickle and Colonel Moran. She gave no quarter to both of those very good colts. GR then showed how good she was by winning the Ky Derby. However, I didn’t bet her because I felt a certain sense of loyalty to Jack Klugman, a/k/a Oscar Madison. Never has there been an actor who understood his character better than Jack, inasmuch as he was every bit the horseplayer as was Mr. Madison.
    Anyway, Genuine Risk followed that up with getting mugged by Angel Cordero and Codex in the Preakness, and in what I have always felt was a tremendously underrated performance in the Belmont, when running a very game second to the mud-loving Temperence Hill.
    With all due respect to Rachel Alexandra, Swiss Skydiver has danced every dance and taken on the boys on two occasions. She is a throwback to the great fillies and mares of yesteryear like Shuvee, Gallorette and What a Summer. She is the 3yo filly champ already and can truly shock the world if she could beat the likes of Improbable, Tom’s D’etat, and Tiz The Law.

    1. While you take this walk down “Memory Lane” you can throw in another of the “iron mares,” Dainty Dotsie. In eleven starts at Keystone in 1970’s she lost only once, finishing second to Gladiolus. She beat What a Summer in Vagrancy Handicap at Big A. Not well known because she was based at Keystone but worth a mention. Rachel Alexandra is in National Racing Hall of Fame so I’m not sure why you would want to challenge her in any way but do agree SSD is a serious racehorse. Genuine Risk was trained by LeRoy Jolley, same man who brought you Foolish Pleasure. I would not run SSD in BC Classic but that’s just me. Do what Jack Woltz did in GF, Pt. 2, “put her out to stud (as a broodmare).” Why risk it? At least that’s how I see it plus she goes out on top having won Preakness.

  12. Well, you scooped me Fram, just posted this week’s column on that every subject, Swiss Skydiver in the Classic. Could it be? All will be staying tuned for that possibility.

    Might have to pull you up on Shuvee; back to back Jockey Clubs? Ain’t that somethin’?

    But hey, these are the kind of horses that make me feel sorry for all those people who don’t get it about Thoroughbred racing.

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