The field is crowded for Preakness Stakes

Pimlico: Today's big race draws intriguing group of horses, plus packed infield and grandstand.

May 15, 1999

IF THE weather holds, and no mishaps befall any of the thoroughbreds in their stalls or during their exercises, the stage could be set for a dramatic and crowded Preakness Stakes this afternoon.

As many as a baker's dozen could run in this history-laden race that dates to 1873. This might create a traffic jam of fast-moving horse flesh out of the starting gate, and also when they hit the tight clubhouse turn. But we're unlikely to see the sort of dangerous stampede of 19 horses that marred the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

Charismatic, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, won that race, despite 31-1 odds. He won't be the favorite this time, either. Will he or another upstart prove the surprise of the Preakness field vying for a total purse of $1 million?

One of the more intriguing strategic moves has come from the 1997 and 1998 Preakness-winning trainer, Bob Baffert, who shipped in two outstanding fillies to run with the boys, then withdrew the favored Silverbulletday so she could win over a weaker field in yesterday's $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for fillies. That leaves second-place Derby finisher Menifee as the bettors' top choice.

The lack of a dominant favorite and so many horses with strong records has stimulated interest in this event. For most racing fans, these are good times. To top it off, weather forecasts call for ideal spring weather today.

Not only will a crowd gather on the main track, but in the stands, too. It's an event people do not want to miss (even if those with infield tickets can't see much of the race). The idea is to have a good time, enjoy this annual rite of Baltimore's springtime and root for your chosen pony to cross the finish line first.

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