Counting Down: The Preakness

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Counting down. The Preakness looms in hours. The toll both, American Pharoah needs to pay the toll. Best horse, short field, inside post, all eyes, all arrows on him. Feels like we’ve been here before.

Hot and humid. The air is heavy, like a wet down jacket. Thunderstorms on the radar, it feels like they’ll be delivered.

On HRRN today, Pimlico offers little cover from the elements, we’ll be huddled under the brick hut covering the scales in the winner’s circle. A poncho and a microphone sit next to me, ready for action, my tools of the trade these days. I remember when I used mud pants and extra goggles.

Trevor McCarthy just won the third for Graham Motion, part of a birthday present for the 21-year-old jockey who rides 14 of 14 races today. That’s one way to keep a kid off the streets and out of the bars. Son of former jockey Michael McCarthy, son looks like his dad, talks like his dad and rides like his dad. McCarthy rides local longshot Bodhisattva in the Preakness. He won the Federico Tesio on the front end back in April. It looks like that could be a busy seat in the $1.5 million stakes as Dortmund and Mr. Z look destined for the same position. Behind them, American Pharoah, Diving Rod and Firing Line try to find slots. Then Danzig Moon and Tale Of Verve lob along, hoping for the house to fall down in front of them.

Seems so simple on paper. It always does, then the gates open and chaos reigns. Last year, California Chrome found – made – his perfect spot and it was nailed down early. A year earlier, Orb stuttered and it was over early. In 2012, I’ll Have Another utilized his weapon, finding the sweet spot and setting aim on Bodemeister, it was just a matter of running him down again. In 2011, Animal Kingdom found himself behind the motion early, he ran hard, but was always playing catch up as Shackleford laid down the picnic blanket. And on and on over the years – smooth trips, rough trips, good luck, bad luck, epic performances and disappointing ones.