The 144th Preakness is in the books and War of Will has been established as the one to beat in the 3-year-old division.
Of course, plenty of racing remains on the calendar, and Maximum Security, Country House and Omaha Beach could re-enter the picture over the summer and fall.
Recent history is on the side of War of Will, however, as the Preakness winner has captured the 3-year-old male championship 16 times in the last 22 years.
Pimlico, despite its shortcomings, is always a fun trip. I’ll miss going to Old Hilltop when the race is inevitably moved 30 miles down the road to Laurel Park.
Laurel sits 24 miles from the Washington Monument and 11.6 miles from Baltimore Washington International airport. The Stronach Group has been pouring millions into the plant trying to attract a Breeders’ Cup. The next possibility would be 2022, as the host site has been selected for 2019 (Santa Anita), 2020 (Keeneland) and 2021 (Del Mar).
Seeing the condemned Pimlico north grandstand draped with black banners a la the upper deck at TIAA Bank Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was a sight for sore eyes. Then there is the plumbing issue. When running into a couple of local plumbing teams aboard the ancient Pimlico elevator, it was clear the boys weren't having fun.
Now it is on to Belmont Park, where several Kentucky Derby horses lay in wait with a five-week layoff, including Tacitus, likely the main threat. A son of Tapit has won three of the last five Belmont Stakes, with Triple Crown winners taking the other two.
One horse that could make it interesting is Game Winner, he of the wide trip and rough start at the Derby. Dam sire A.P. Indy won the Belmont in 1992. [UPDATE: Bob Baffert announced this afternoon that Game Winner will skip the Belmont and point towards the Travers S. at Saratoga on Aug. 24]
The draw will be held the evening of June 2 at Citi Field before the Mets game for the second consecutive year.
The Met Mile on the Belmont undercard is going to be huge with Thunder Snow, Mitole, Coal Front, Firenze Fire, McKinzie and Promises Fulfilled expected. Three of those horses are in the NTRA top 10 and another is in the top 15.
Attendance at the 22 Belmont Stakes without a Triple Crown on the line since 1985 has averaged approximately 53,000. In the last two Belmont Stakes without a Triple Crown draw, the New York Racing Association reported 57,729 (Tapwrit, 2017) and 60,114 (Creator, 2018).
• Fort Erie Race Track opens at 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28 for its first thoroughbred card of the year. The second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes, is scheduled for July 23. It will be the 84th running of the border oval’s feature event.
• Shoutout to Buffalo native and Fort Erie paddock announcer and handicapper Ashley Mailloux, who did a terrific job over the weekend on the Pimlico simulcast. She also sat on an all-female panel, including Gabby Gaudet, Caton Bredar and Acacia Courtney, before the races. She represented Buffalo well on a national stage.
• Locally, Buffalo Raceway continues to run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 20. Special Sunday cards on Father’s Day June 16 and the following week are on the Raceway calendar.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.