Pride in the Preakness

May 19, 1994

With all the problems besetting horse racing in America these days, it easy to forget what's right with this sporting event. That's why the 118th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico comes at an auspicious time.

At its best, horse-racing can be thrilling and exciting, a spectacular blend of the raw power of specially bred horses and incredibly skilled jockeys. It is both sport and business, a melding of America's centuries-old love of horses, gambling and money-making sports. All of this will be on display this Saturday.

The Preakness is the big event of Maryland's billion-dollar horse-racing industry. It is the middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown. Only the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes compete with the Preakness on the racing calendar. Winning the Triple Crown is a rare event. Since 1875, just 11 horses have ever done it.

Go for Gin still has a shot. The surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby, this Nick Zito-trained horse has been impressive in his Pimlico workouts. He also has one of the best jockeys in the saddle -- Chris McCarron, who set national records while getting his start on the Maryland racing circuit.

But the horse stories don't end there. The highest-priced yearling in this crop of three-year-olds, Numerous, also has the most highly regarded trainer, the wily, 81-year-old Charlie Whittingham. Can this lightly raced, $1.7-million thoroughbred live up to his trainer's expectations?

And what about the one-two local entry from Robert Meyerhoff? Looming offers the enticing prospect of making jockey Andrea Seefeldt the first female to ride a Triple Crown winner; Concern is a strong threat after winning the Arkansas Derby with a stunning rally from 20 lengths back. It's a local ticket all the way: the two horses are Maryland breds, sired by a Maryland stallion. The trainer, Dick Small, is a longtime local horseman, as is the Baltimore County owner, Mr. Meyerhoff.

Racing remains an entrepreneurial sport with a cloudy future. Its fan base is too narrow. Tax laws no longer encourage investment in the sport. And track owners need a visionary plan to broaden the sport's appeal, an essential step if the industry is to grow and prosper.

Still, there's no disputing the electricity and excitement that permeates the entire sport on Preakness Day. What's wrong with racing? Nothing that can't be cured with many more big-time racing events at Pimlico anda Laurel all year round.

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