Record crowd, big handle

Attendance of 118,402 breaks mark set last year

money bet is third highest

Notebook

Preakness Stakes

May 21, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

On an ideal afternoon, the crowd of 118,402 attending the 131st Preakness yesterday bettered by more than 3,000 the record set last year.

It was the seventh 100,000-plus crowd for the race and sixth in a row.

The total handle was $87,544,368, the third-highest ever. That number was exceeded the previous two years, with $91,028,704 in 2005 standing as the record.

The crowd easily surpassed last year's previous high mark of 115,318.

A total of 1,642 press credentials were issued for the event, second only to the 2004 Preakness won by Smarty Jones.

Rose's double duty

Jockey Jeremy Rose, who had a thrilling victory here a year ago aboard Afleet Alex, had a busy and productive day yesterday, and it didn't all take place in Maryland.

Rose, who lives in Elkton, decided to stay at Delaware Park for most of the day instead of traveling early to Baltimore like the rest of the jockeys. He had been offered to ride several good horses in Delaware, and felt like he had a better chance for success than he did at Pimlico early in the day.

His plan was to race in the morning, then catch a helicopter ride to Baltimore for the Preakness.

Rose's decision to stay in Delaware paid off in a big way. In five races in the morning, he finished first and second , then third twice before hustling to catch his helicopter. In the Preakness, riding 30-1 long shot Hemingway's Key, Rose finished a surprising third.

"My horse ran a great race," Rose said. "It set up all right for him. We got thrown around most of the way. But it's hard to celebrate with what happened to Barbaro when he gets vanned off and it doesn't look good."

Gomez wins four

Though jockey Garrett Gomez didn't have much success on seventh-place finisher Like Now in the Preakness, he did enjoy an otherwise fine afternoon at Pimlico.

Gomez had four wins on the card, highlighted by an impressive outing aboard Master Command in the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap.

Leading but under constant pressure to the far turn, Master Command relinquished the lead to Andromeda's Hero around the turn, but came back down the stretch to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths.

Hero finished second and Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion, took third.

"I kept looking to find out where Funny Cide was and he never came on the outside," Gomez said. "At the half, I wanted to sneak away, and my horse wouldn't help me, until [Andromeda's Hero] came alongside of him. When that happened, he got real game. He actually got by us by a half length, but this horse is a fighter."

Quick fix

It doesn't happen often, said blacksmith Kenny Ramsburg, but every now and then a Preakness horse needs a quick, pre-race repair.

Yesterday, in the saddling area before the race, Greeley's Legacy stepped on his own right foot with his left.

"In doing so he pulled a nail down on his shoe," said Ramsburg, who was working with paddock blacksmith Mike Shipley. "I replaced it and filed it off."

Asked if the incident could affect Greeley's Legacy in the race, Ramsburg said no: "If he has the talent and luck to outrun the rest of them, the shoe won't matter."

Greeley's Legacy finished fifth, a neck behind Brother Derek in fourth.

Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg, Glenn Graham and Sandra McKee contributed to this article.

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