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A look at today’s Preakness Stakes

Pimlico race track in Baltimore will host the 146th Preakness Stakes with post time scheduled for 6:47 p.m. NBC will provide coverage of horse racing’s Triple Crown beginning at 5 p.m.

Before I discuss this year’s entries, I feel compelled to discuss the elephant in the room: Medina Spirit’s failed drug test. To be clear, betamethasone is a legal medication but the amount that is allowed on race day in Kentucky was changed from 10 picograms to zero.

The initial test reflect that Medina Spirit had 21 picograms. A picogram is one trillionth of a gram, and is completely irrelevant to any type of performance enhancer. That is the current Kentucky rule in place for that medication, and until that is changed, horse racing has to live with it. A split sample will be re-tested, and depending on the results, Medina Spirit could be stripped of his Kentucky Derby win and the purse earnings of around $1.8 million. Needless to say, the ramifications of a few picograms are huge. All reasonable sports fans want a fair playing field. If someone is cheating, they need to be punished.

Trainer Bob Baffert initially said that Medina Spirit was not administered this drug. Upon further investigation, he discovered that betamethasone is contained in an antifungal cream: Otomax. For a period of a couple of weeks it was topically applied to Medina Spirit for a skin rash. Veterinary records reflect that Otomax was dispensed on April 9 and April 19.

The question from a legal perspective is did Baffert act reasonably under the circumstances when applying it, or should he have been super vigilant since he has been down this type of path before? This ignores what I perceive as the more important question: how reasonable is this zero tolerance for a non-performance enhancing medication that is used to treat a rash.

In addition, potential Derby horses had to pass “out of competition testing” within two weeks prior to the race, which Medina Spirit passed.

The Maryland racing commission agreed, with additional safeguards in place, to allow Medina Spirit to enter this weekend’s Preakness Stakes. On the opposite side of the ledger is the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which denied any of Baffert’s horses to even enter races in that state while the investigation continues. Maryland is saying we must respect and protect both the integrity of the sport and the integrity of due process.

Although Medina Spirit was allowed to enter, if he tests positive this week he will be forced to scratch from the race. Baffert’s two Preakness entries and the filly he has entered for the Black Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday were tested on May 6, 10 and 11. The results for the May 6 test came in clean, and the remaining results that came Friday afternoon were also clean.

Now let’s talk about the race, which features 10 horses.

In the inside, rail post No. 1 is late bloomer Ram. He is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who at 85 was the big name trainer in the 1980s-90s. For you local wrestling fans, think of Bald Eagle Area’s dynasty during that time, courtesy of Dick Rhoades with his brother Lloyd organizing the feeder program. Lukas is still training, but it appears his steed is over matched. He has not even run in a Stakes race yet, let alone won a Graded Stakes.

Keepmeinmind was last seen finishing a respectable seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He exits post No. 2. Although I have not totally forgotten him, he has yet to do anything memorable.

Current Derby winner Medina Spirit drew the No. 3 hole. He is the real deal, and if not forced to scratch, should be part of the early pace. This horse has repeatedly shown his toughness and guts, and should finish in the top 3. In his six career starts he has three wins and finished second three times.

Crowded Trade exits post No. 4. He was last seen finishing third in the Wood Memorial in April. He is a deep closer and will be hoping for an early hot pace to close into. He has a win, a second-place finish and a third-place finish in only three starts. Betting on him to win is more risky than trading on the stock market.

Midnight Bourbon is the third and final horse that ran in the Derby. He got a poor start but still rallied to get sixth. Look for him to be much closer to the pace in the Preakness, especially since the number of entries is about half the 19 horse Derby field. Bourbon could easily be in the mix at the end. He drew gate No. 5.

Rombauer was last seen finishing a distant third to Derby favorite Essential Quality in the Blue Grass Stakes. I just do not think he is good enough, with two wins in six starts. He will leave the No. 6 hole.

France Go de Ina is an American born horse who is Japanese owned. He has a very unique lightning-like white patch on his stomach. Although many thoroughbreds have white markings on their face or legs, white body markings are extremely rare. It appears that his owners are using the Preakness as a prep race for their real goal: the Belmont Stakes. Most American trainers do not like to have an official work three days before the race, preferring to be at least six or seven days prior. When questioned, France Go de Ina’s trainer stated that this was a common practice in Japan. France Go de Ina exits gate No. 7.

Unbridled Honor has one win in five career starts and finished second in the Lexington Stakes on April 10. He is a definite late closer, and will also be hoping for a hot pace. Perhaps the 1 3/16ths Preakness distance, which is 1/16th shorter than the Derby, will help him get a piece of the purse. He exits post No. 8.

If you play the No. 9 horse, Risk Taking, that is exactly what you are doing. Depending on the odds, the risk might be worth it. He was the favorite going into the Wood Memorial, but bobbled at the start and lost all chance. He drew post No. 9 and his morning line odds are 15-1.

Concert Tour is the second of Bob Baffert’s entries and is in the outside post No. 10. He was undefeated before, finishing a close third in the Arkansas Derby on April 10. Had he won, he would have been one of the Derby favorites. He still will be heavily bet with his three wins and a third-place finish in four lifetime starts. Look for him to gun for the early lead and try to lead the field from gate to wire.

I suspect that both Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon will either challenge for that early lead or pressure Concert Tour all the way around the Pimlico race track.

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