This time last year, the Kentucky Derby winner was retired, the beaten Derby favorite was hurt, and fans of the Preakness were searching for intrigue like beachcombers digging for coins.
Today, the vault is rich for fans of the Preakness, Triple Crown and redemption.
After a sizzling Derby showdown two weeks ago, Silver Charm, the steel-gray colt built like a battleship, and Captain Bodgit, the late-swinging powerhouse trained by Marylander Gary Capuano, renew their gritty rivalry at Pimlico in the 122nd Preakness Stakes.
Post time for the 10-horse field is 5: 31 p.m. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, a chance of scattered showers in the morning, and temperatures near 70 degrees. More than 90,000 fans and party animals are expected.
At Churchill Downs on May 3, Silver Charm resisted Captain Bodgit's late drive by about a foot. And now the athletic colt trained by the Californian Bob Baffert grasps for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness was Sunday Silence in 1989. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.
"I pointed him toward the Derby," Baffert said of Silver Charm, who has never finished worse than second. "I really drilled on him.
"But he's a tough customer. He's durable, and he's a fighter. If he can get by this one, I think he's got a great chance to win the Triple Crown. But this race is the toughest."
The Preakness sneaks up two weeks after the Derby. And it provides a new distance (1 3/16 miles after the Derby's 1 1/4 miles), a different track surface and configuration and a new cast of characters.
But this year, despite six fresh horses, the three mentioned in almost every breath are the three who dominated the Derby: Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit and Free House.
"I think they're the ones to beat," said John Tammaro III, trainer of Concerto. "I don't see anybody else coming in here any better."
Baffert said he expects Silver Charm to regress slightly. But he said he also expects Captain Bodgit to take a step backward, too.
Nevertheless, both horses have trained like tigers. They can't wait to get to the track in the mornings -- Silver Charm at Pimlico and Captain Bodgit at the Bowie Training Center, where Capuano works -- and once there they nearly pull their riders out of the saddles.
Barry Irwin, president of the syndicate that owns Captain Bodgit, said the resilient colt may fare better today than he did two weeks ago.
In the Derby, a moderate pace compromised Captain Bodgit's explosive late attack. And once Captain Bodgit launched his offensive, jockey Alex Solis whipped him 33 times down the stretch -- until, finally, the fatigued horse veered in approaching the wire, losing momentum and perhaps the race.
Today, the trainer of a speedball from Boston named Cryp Too guarantees a lively pace. That should help Captain Bodgit. Conversely, Pimlico's tight turns and speed-favoring surface should hinder Captain Bodgit.
So which is it?
"I really have no idea," said a laughing Capuano, 33, navigating his way through his first Triple Crown journey. "I think there's going to be an honest pace. That's all we're looking for. But whether that works to our advantage, I just don't know.
"We let this horse run his race. Speed on the front, a slow pace, it doesn't seem to matter. He's usually there at the end."
A victory by Captain Bodgit would be redemption for his narrow loss in the Derby. But the horse whose connections wear "redemption" as a name tag is Concerto.
His disappointing ninth-place finish in the Derby angered his owner, George Steinbrenner, and frustrated his trainer, Tammaro, who lives in Howard County. They changed jockeys and training techniques, and today they learn whether their colt is good enough to challenge the top 3-year-olds.
Although three of the fresh horses -- Touch Gold, Wild Tempest and Frisk Me Now -- deserve a second look, they face long odds. Since 1983, 56 horses who missed the Derby have raced in the Preakness. None has won.
Today's Preakness lacks two familiar faces: jockey Pat Day, who has no mount after winning the past three, and trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has saddled a horse in every Preakness since 1985. But two former Maryland riding stars return, Chris McCarron on Touch Gold and Kent Desormeaux on Free House.
"It's great to be home," said Desormeaux, who regained the mount on Free House after David Flores rode him in the Derby. "I hope to improve him a few lengths. I think that will be plenty enough."
If it's not, Silver Charm and Captain Bodgit might be the horses battling in the stretch like Affirmed and Alydar in 1978 and Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989.
The vision is stirring, but the reality unknown.
"You don't know what will happen," said Bill Condren, owner of Wild Tempest. "You just know all about what might happen."
First, Second, Third
Jenny Rees, Louisville Courier-Journal, Free House, Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit