- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2001

The Kentucky Derby is often a mad dash to the first turn, but Saturday's 126th Preakness Stakes is traditionally won by those who wait for the final turn before rallying.
"The biggest idea you have to embrace as a jockey is if you can steal away turning for home you have a better chance of holding your lead than Churchill Downs and Belmont Park," said jockey Jerry Bailey, who seeks his third Preakness victory aboard Congaree.
The Derby is American racing's largest field annually, and luck is paramount to surviving the opening turn there. Conversely, the Belmont Stakes requires stamina over 1* miles in which traffic is as light as Pennsylvania Avenue at midnight.
The Preakness, however, requires jockeys to weave through traffic like a cabbie heading to the airport at rush hour. Bailey rode Red Bullet past five rivals on the final turn last year to take the Preakness. Charismatic passed seven in 1999, while Real Quiet overcame four in 1998.
Every Preakness winner since 1983 rallied on the final turn besides Louis Quatorze in 1996. While the one-mile track always has favored speed, front-runners don't steal races. Either the jockey waits until the final turn before making a move in the 1 3/16-mile race or someone else gets to wear the black-eyed Susan blanket.
The upcoming Preakness is expected to have Richly Blend, Bay Eagle and Mr. John competing for the early lead, trying to outlast rivals in the stretch. History proves they will have little chance.
But the debated image of those tight turns at Old Hilltop are enough to lure many ill-fated front-runners to the lead for fear of losing too much ground if caught outside. Former Pimlico general manager Chick Lang debunked the myth that Pimlico's turns were tighter than the average mile racetrack by measuring the track's width. However, it still factors into jockeys' and trainers' prerace strategies. The shortest distance around may be the first lane, but it's not always the fastest path to the wire.
"The turns are tighter and less banked," Maryland trainer Ferris Allen said. "The strange part is the best part of the far turn is the three path. You'd think since the turns are tight and not banked you have to stay down on the fence, but that's not true. The three path around the turn is great."
But Bailey disagreed on the turns' impact, saying, "It's not as much as they think. Horses can make up ground here. It just depends on what kind of trip and how much traffic they have to deal with."
Jockey Donnie Miller scored the biggest Preakness upset in the past 25 years when he skimmed inside five rivals on the final turn to win the 1983 Preakness aboard Deputed Testamony. Amid flying chunks of mud during a sudden downpour, the Maryland-based jockey knew his home track's bias meant he should stay slightly off the rail when he entered the stretch. Miller has since retired but still knows the bottom line of the Preakness: wait until the final turn before moving.
"Stealing a race has to do with being on the fastest, best horse. Very few times does a jockey steal a race," Miller said. "If you're on the best horse you can do anything you want."
Notes Monarchos was given an easy morning even by his light standards. The Derby winner simply walked the shedrow yesterday. He will gallop today… .
Mr. John worked a half-mile in a sharp 48 2/5 seconds at Churchill. He will be shipped to Pimlico with Point Given, Congaree and Dollar Bill today… .
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Griffinite in the Preakness. It's the first Triple Crown mount for the 1998 Eclipse Award winner as the nation's leading apprentice… .
Pimlico Special winner Include will enter the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on June 2.


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