Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course May 17 was greeted with splendid weather and a fast track, unlike May 16, when Black-eyed Susan Day was threatened by an early torrential downpour.
The clearing skies later May 16 and mostly sunny weather early May 17 assured that Pimlico's main dirt track would be listed as fast, and that the turf races could be run on the grass. On Black-Eyed Susan Day, the turf races were forced onto the dirt for safety reasons.
During a Grade III stakes race on the undercard, the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the dirt, a horse co-owned by Sagamore Farm and Mel Palkoff, Happy My Way, won by 5.75 lengths in a five-starter field covering six furlongs in 1:09.21. Lemon Drop Dream was second, and Service For Ten was third.
A 3-5 favorite, Happy My Way, ridden by Joe Bravo, paid $3.20. It was Happy My Way's fourth win out of five starts. The race was the fifth on a 13-race card.
The marquee event of the day, the 139th Preakness Stakes, the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, has a 6:18 p.m. post time.
The day opened with the odds fluctuating slightly on Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite California Chrome. The California-bred California Chrome was listed at 3-5 early during the day, according to online wagering websites, having been listed at 3-5 following the May 14 post position draw. California Chrome will break from the No. 3 gate in the 10-starter field.
California Chrome will be ridden by Victor Espinoza and is trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman.
All along, Sherman has said that he's happy to be in this position after a long career, and he is willing to let Espinoza -- credited with an expert ride during the Derby -- dictate strategy for the Preakness.
"You've got to see how the race is going to play out," Sherman said. "I wish I had a future book to look at and see how this is going to be, but I've been around for a long time and I just go one race at a time. I can't give instructions to Victor; he's been around there. Anyone that gives instructions to these kind of jocks are kidding themselves. That's why they are earning the big bucks and they are very talented riders."
The second favorite is Social Inclusion, listed at 5-1, according to online wagering websites. Social Inclusion, in the No. 8 post position, is considered a speed horse with three lifetime starts. He won his first two races at Gulfstream Park and finished third in the Wood Memorial. Social Inclusion is trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua and ridden by Luis Contreras.
"I want him to have the lead at the three-quarters -- breaking well, going to the turn first or second and at the three-quarters, there he goes. He's going to finish," said Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing, the owner of Social Inclusion. "In the Wood, the track didn't help him. This time the track is going to help us."
Another contender is the Bob Baffert-trained Bayern, listed at 10-1 according to online wagering websites, who will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik. Bayern finished first in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs April 26, but was taken down to second for interference in the stretch.