Preakness Stakes Classics – Zipse At The Track

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It may not have the same anticipation of the Kentucky Derby, nor does it have the potential of clinching the Triple Crown like the Belmont Stakes, but there is just something about the Preakness. The Pimlico classic has always been on the short list of my favorite races. Racing’s Middle Jewel often brings out the best in the top horses of the crop. It also has produced some of the most fantastic performances that this longtime racefan has ever seen. With another Preakness almost upon us, join me in celebrating some of the most memorable editions of the great race …

Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer (1989) – As it was with Affirmed and Alydar, sometimes the racing gods just treat us to two of the greats in the same foal crop. The Sunday Silence and Easy Goer donnybrook in the 1989 Preakness was the greatest of their four meetings. It is not just the best edition of this race I’ve ever seen, it remains one of the two greatest horse races (along with the Affirmed-Alydar Belmont) that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

Curlin and Street Sense (2007) – The best two three-year-olds of likely the strongest crop of the 21st century, Curlin and Street Sense had their best match-up in the Preakness. Demonstrating how good he would become, the lightly raced, future two-time Horse of the Year, somehow got the best of the two-year old champion and Kentucky Derby winner, in a nail biter of a finish. Watch it and tell me that Street Sense doesn’t look home free in mid-stretch.

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Affirmed over Alydar (1978) – Just mention the names Affirmed and Alydar, and you know that you are likely talking about a classic. It may not have had the sheer drama of their Belmont classic, but the 1978 Preakness was vintage Affirmed, as the great horse was able to lay it all on the lane to hold off the oncoming challenge of the equally talented Alydar. It’s really amazing, considering how well that he ran in each leg of the Triple Crown, that Alydar didn’t win any … but Affirmed just wouldn’t allow it.

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Afleet Alex from the dirt (2005) – In all honesty, this was not a strong Preakness field. It wasn’t a nail-biting finish either. Regardless, this edition became one of the most memorable ever. Simply put, it was one of the most remarkable feats of balance and athleticism ever seen in a horse race. This is a wonderful horse’s signature race … how Afleet Alex stayed on his feet, and how Jeremy Rose stayed on his back, I will never know, but I’m sure glad they did. Three weeks later the pair easily added the Belmont for two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

Rachel Alexandra beats the boys (2009) – Her Kentucky Oaks win was the most dominant ever. Still, heading to Baltimore for different connections, Rachel Alexandra was trying to do what no female horse had done for nearly a century. Despite a full field of boys, she was favored to do just that. Not only did the great three-year-old filly get the job done, but she survived a torrid speed duel with a future sprint champion, and then held off a hard charging Kentucky Derby winner, to do it.

Silver Charm and Free House (1997) – Silver Charm and Free House made up the best American racing rivalry since Alydar and Affirmed, and the Preakness was the very best of their eight lifetime meetings. The pair looked each other in the eyeballs down the stretch, instantly making the 1997 edition of the Middle Jewel a classic. In the end, it was the Derby winner moving one step closer to an elusive Triple Crown by winning a tight photo. Throw in the hard charging Captain Bodgit, and the tough luck Touch Gold, and you can see why it was one of the most exciting editions of all.

Secretariat from last to first (1973) – Last, but certainly not least was the greatest of them all. Sandwiched between his track record breaking performance in the Kentucky Derby, and his win for the ages in the Belmont, came this doozy from the incomparable Secretariat. Last into the first turn at Pimlico, Big Red and Ron Turcotte unleashed an early move never seen before or since. Talk about taking over a race early, Secretariat’s last to first move on the Preakness first turn is stuff of legend. It is also now recognized as the fastest Preakness ever after timing malfunctions were finally righted.