The owner is in his early 90s, in faltering health and is receiving the chance of a lifetime in a race he won't be able to attend.
The trainer is 72 and a Maryland legend whose career has been resuscitated after a lengthy slump.
The jockey quit riding for nearly four years, ballooned to 150 pounds, required eight months to shed the necessary weight to resume his career and now is back among the best in the state's colony.
The horse, who won the Federico Tesio Stakes in April, is an offspring of one of the most productive recent sires, Malibu Moon, and is an honest type who always seems to provide a maximum effort.
The odds will be long when the bell rings to launch the 130th Preakness, but Malibu Moonshine, a bona fide local favorite who was conceived at Country Life Farm in Bel Air, but is officially a Florida-bred colt, has earned this opportunity.
Woodrow Marriott. King Leatherbury. Steve Hamilton. Malibu Moonshine, a $25,000 purchase at the 2004 sale of 2-year-olds in training at Timonium. The connections are pure Maryland. And their big day almost never happened.
Malibu Moonshine had another suitor last week, a prospective buyer who was watching him gallop, checking his health and offering "a lot of money" to the member of the Marriott hotel empire. The rumor was that if the colt had been sold, he would not have run in the Preakness, but instead in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes on the undercard.
But the proposed sale fell through eight days before the race and now Malibu Moonshine is "off the market, period," according to Marriott's racing manager, Louis Smith. "You never know, but unless something ridiculous happens, he won't be sold. He needed to breeze Saturday and we just couldn't get it done. It was too close to the race."
In Leatherbury's barn at Laurel Park, the staff, which had been nervous, exhaled in unison. "Everybody's settled down," said Leatherbury. "My people were really upset, particularly my foreman [Avon Thorpe]."
With all systems now go, Hamilton will live "every rider's dream" in his first Triple Crown race, Marriott's wife of 67 years, Judy, will represent ownership at the race, and Baltimore-born Leatherbury will gain his fourth chance to win his city's most important one-day sporting event.
Marriott will watch on television from his home in northwest Washington.
"I don't think I'll be able to go," he said by telephone. "It's too early [after a hospital stay]. But I'm planning to go to Utah next month to celebrate my 91st birthday [June 27]. I've got a lot of friends out there."
"He's either 90 or 91, depend on what day you ask," said Smith. "He's not in very good shape, but he's a tough old dude."
Leatherbury, who has saddled 6,078 winners, third highest all time, has been a titan in the local training ranks for decades. He has captured 51 meet titles at Pimlico and Laurel Park and twice during his heyday was the nation's top conditioner (1977-78). He acquired the nickname "King of the Claimers."
But his magic vanished for several years in the late '90's and only recently has he begun thriving like in the old days.
"I hit skid row and I don't know what happened," he said. "I was riding high for so long and things started to crumble. It took a long time to get them back together. It's hard to get new owners when you're my age, so I relied on my old standbys. A lot of it was my fault. I'd hold on to horses too long and I was breeding a lot of bad ones. I was concentrating on quantity rather than quality."
Now, he's winning regularly again and Malibu Moonshine has become his first Preakness starter since I Am The Game in 1985. Twice, Leatherbury trainees have finished fourth, once fifth.
"This might be one last shot for two old men," he said, referring to himself and his owner. "Malibu is really a nice horse who's improved since we had him. He trains well and he's a perfect gentleman. He might be a cut below the top ones in the race, but there are horses in there he can beat, too."
Had Bellamy Road or Afleet Alex or another big name dominated the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness field would have shriveled. But Giacomo's win encouraged others to give the second jewel a try, making for a larger field.
"I don't think the Derby winner can reproduce that race," said Leatherbury. "He ran beyond his ability. And this horse might be a little better than the ones I've had in the Preakness. I'm hoping to have a chance to run maybe third."
Leatherbury is grateful that Malibu Moonshine and his owner will go in the big one. "There is only one Preakness," he said.
Another grateful figure is Hamilton, the 31-year-old jockey affectionately known as "Cowboy," who eschewed riding in 2000 and returned to his native Oklahoma for a more peaceful environment in which to raise his children. He worked in the oil fields with his father and occasionally broke horses before returning to Maryland to begin the battle with his bulge.