The late-afternoon thunderstorm that hit Pimlico Race Course yesterday had members of the press scrambling for record books.
Pimlico is a track known to dry quickly, given proper sunlight and/or wind -- so don't count on the track being "off." But just in case . . . .
Rain today obviously would hinder the chances of a fast track. The last time the track was rated sloppy or muddy was 1983, when Deputed Testamony won amid a daylong rain.
On the optimistic side:
In 1985, Koluctoo's Jill won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on an off track. By the next day, the track was so fast that Tank's Prospect set a Preakness record that still stands (1 minute, 53 2/5 seconds).
And three years ago, Pimlico was sopped the day before the Preakness. The main track dried out sufficiently to be rated "good" for the big race.
Only twice in the past 50 years has the track been rated sloppy for the Preakness.
Of the eight Preakness starters, Hansel is the only horse to have started on a muddy or sloppy track. He did it twice, finishing second and third, but both starts came last year.
Without established mud form, David L. Heckerman, breeding expert for Thoroughbred Times magazine, was asked which horse's breeding might suggest he would be a "mudder."
He said Olympio, a son of Naskra. "The Naskra sire line has had the most success [with mudders]," Heckerman said.
* Advance wagering on the Preakness has Olympio a slight 2-1 favorite over Best Pal, also 2-1. Strike the Gold (5-2) is a close third choice, followed by Hansel (7-1).
A record total ($187,211) for advance wagering was bet. Nearly $60,000 was bet in the win pool, with Olympio favored by a mere $331 over Best Pal.
* Racing Times, the past-performance competitor to Daily Racing Form, went on sale at Pimlico yesterday. The paper is carrying Pimlico data and is available at newsstands at the track and local area. It sells for $2.50, same as the Form.
"We're here to stay," editor Steve Crist said.
* Curt Gowdy Jr., producer of ABC-TV's major racing shows, had one of four isolation cameras focused on Strike the Gold when the colt made his winning Derby run. The others were Fly So Free, Hansel and -- surprise -- long shot Quintana, who finished sixth.
Tomorrow, the network will use three isolation cameras. Although Gowdy never reveals who gets the special treatment before the race, two surely will be on Strike the Gold and Olympio. The third? Gowdy reportedly was torn between Best Pal and Hansel.
* Only three jockeys in today's Preakness are not familiar with the thrill of winning the race.
Chris Antley, on Strike the Gold; Jerry Bailey, on Hansel; and Gary Stevens, on Best Pal, are a combined 0-for-7 in the race.
Previous winners are Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye, Alex Solis, Jorge Velasquez and Pat Day (twice).
* Honorees at the Alibi Breakfast yesterday:
* ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, who was the recipient of the Maryland Jockey Club's Award of Merit.
* Demmie Stathoplos, senior editor at Sports Illustrated. She is the first female winner of the Old Hilltop Award for excellence in racing coverage.
* Sam Lacy, sports editor of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper. He also was given an Old Hilltop Award.
* Los Angeles Times racing writer Bill Christine, given the David F. Woods Memorial Award for best Preakness story of 1990.
* Other than the standard win-place-show wagering on the Preakness, the track will offer exacta and triple wagering.
* Supporting the Preakness on today's 11-race program are several other rich races.
The $150,000-added Maryland Budweiser Breeders' Cup, the eighth race, pits a solid field of sprinters. The race was won by King's Nest in 1989 and by Norquestor last year.
The inaugural Maryland Million Handicap, a starter handicap, is for Maryland Million nominees. The race before the Preakness, the Never Bend Handicap, shapes up as a competitive race for older horses.
Media Preakness picks
Writer, affiliation ... Win ... Place ... Show
Marty McGee, The Sun ... Olympio ... Hansel ... Best Pal
John Eisenberg, The Sun ... Best Pal ... Mane Minister ... Strike the Gold
Mike Littwin, The Sun ... Olympio ... Strike the Gold ... Mane
Bill Glauber, The Sun ... Strike the Gold ... Corporate Report ... Best Pal
Alan Goldstein, The Sun ... Best Pal ... Olympio ... Strike the Gold
Ross Peddicord, Evening Sun ... Best Pal ... Strike the Gold ... Olympio
Tom Atwell, Racing Form ... Olympio ... Strike the Gold ... Best Pal
Jack Mann, Racing Times ... Best Pal ... Olympio ... Whadjathink
Clem Florio, Racing Times ... Strike the Gold ... Whadjathink ... Best Pal
Jay Hovdey, Racing Times ... Whadjathink ... Best Pal ... Mane Minister
Steve Crist, Racing Times ... Best Pal ... Hansel ... Strike the Gold
William Nack, Sports Illustrated ... Olympio ... Best Pal ... Strike the Gold
Billy Reed, Sports Illustrated ... Strike the Gold ... Hansel ... Best Pal
Bill Finley, N.Y. Daily News ... Strike the Gold ... Olympio ... Best Pal
Jenny Kellner, N.Y. Post ... Strike the Gold ... Olympio ... Best Pal