Weather for Preakness Day fell under the general category of "It could be worse," as the biggest race day of the year for Maryland got off to a soggy but not soaking start at Pimlico Race Course May 19.
Rain had fallen on the Baltimore region for most of the week leading up to the 143rd Preakness Stakes, and while light sprinkles made scattered appearances, there was no early downpour. Yet, with no sun and hardly any breeze, the track was sloppy and gray skies threatened spectators who were in the open.
True to the Preakness' reputation of being "The People's Race" and "The People's Party," there was an enthusiastic infield crowd cheering the music of entertainers performing under a large white concert shell for InfieldFest.
Among the entertainers scheduled were DJ Ruen, Michael Thomasian, Frank Walker, ODESZA with Naomi Wild, 21 Savage, Post Malone and Vice.
As a result of the weather and racing surface conditions, some races originally scheduled for the turf were run on the main sealed dirt track. That certainly affected some of the fields among the Preakness Day races.
In the earlier stakes races at Pimlico:
Fire Away won the $250,000 Dixie Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile Grade III for 3-year-olds and up run on the dirt. The race was originally scheduled for turf, and although there were eight horses scheduled to run, only four went to the starting gate. The race was also downgraded from a Grade II to a Grade III after being moved from turf to dirt.
Fire Away, a 6-year-old bay ridden by Manuel Franco, saved some distance on the rail and finished in 1:43.92, paying $4.60 to win. Unbridled Juan, with Edgar Prado in the saddle, was the pace-setter leading much the way and tried to hang on in the stretch but was overtaken by Fire Away, who won by 3/4-lengths. Just Howard, with Jose Ortiz aboard, finished third.
The $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes, a 6-furlong gallop on dirt for 3-year-olds, was won by Mitole, who ran true to his pre-race odds by outdistancing second-place finisher Still Having Fun by 6 1/4 lengths. Mitole, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., finished in an efficient 1:09.29 and paid $2.80 to win. The second-place colt, Still Having Fun, was ridden by Sheldon Russell. A longshot, Clouded Judgement (25-1 odds) was third with Rosario Montanez in the irons. His $5.40 payoff for third place nearly doubled the winning ticket.
In the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes, the first stakes race of the day, Tap Daddy dashed to a 6 1/2-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds. The Murphy Stakes was originally scheduled to be run a mile on turf but was moved to the main dirt track. The dark bay colt was ridden by Santana and covered the distance in 1:43.67, paying $5.80 to win. Santana was riding for trainer Steve Asmussen, and the two are teamed later in the day with Preakness entry Tenfold. Threes Over Deuces, with Javier Castellano riding, was second, and Takedown, with Florent Geroux in the irons, was third.
Photo Credit: Jon Kral/Maryland Jockey Club