Your Guide to the Ever-Elusive Triple Crown Ahead Of Preakness Stakes

Written By Darren Cooper on May 18, 2022
Guide To Ever-Elusive Triple Crown Ahead of Preakness Stakes

It’s older than the Kentucky Derby. It just hasn’t been run as many times. And it’s truly second-to-none.

The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico is the second jewel of horse racing’s famous Triple Crown and it will be run for the 147th time Saturday, May 21. Post positions were drawn Monday afternoon.

Rich Strike is coming off a historic victory in the Kentucky Derby, looking like a car weaving through I-95 traffic, the 80-1 shot came from nowhere to win.

Last week, Rich Strike’s connections opted not to run the horse at the Preakness, saving him for the Belmont Stakes. That puts a damper on the race, but it’s still the highlight of May in Maryland.

Maryland online sports betting is not legal, but you can make the trip to Pimlico to bet on the Preakness. Advanced-deposit wagering on horse racing is legal in Maryland.

Here’s what you should know about the 2022 Preakness and the Triple Crown.

Different distances, different horses

The Kentucky Derby is run over a distance of 1 1/4 miles. If you want to use a track and field analogy, think of that as a 400-meter race. 

The Preakness is 1 3/16 miles. That may not sound like much of a difference, but horses are bred to run shorter and shorter distances, so every little bit matters.

The Belmont, which is in New York three weeks after the Preakness, is 1 1/2 miles. To win the Triple Crown over five weeks, a horse must navigate these three trips at three very different racetracks.

Not easy, right?

That’s why you see fields change up from race to race in the Triple Crown series. Some trainers feel their horses are better at a shorter distance. Some are in it for the long haul and better at the Belmont. Horses that win the Triple Crown are truly special.

Oh, look at the pretty flowers!

The winning horses at each of the Triple Crown races are festooned with a blanket of flowers. At the Kentucky Derby, the winner is draped with roses, hence the term “run for the roses.” At Belmont, the winner gets white carnations.

In Baltimore, they bestow black-eyed Susans, because it’s the state flower of Maryland. However (shhh!), black-eyed Susans don’t bloom until summer, so what the winning horse gets Saturday are Viking Poms that have their centers dyed black.

Wait, is that a girl?

One of the big storylines entering the Preakness this week will be the presence of Secret Oath. She (yes, we said she) won the Kentucky Oaks by a comfortable margin. The Kentucky Oaks is the Kentucky Derby, except for fillies, run at Churchill Downs.

Some smart horseplayers believe Secret Oath may be the best 3-year-old horse in the country this year. The last time Secret Oath ran against the boys was in the Arkansas Derby, where she finished third despite a troubled trip.

Six fillies have won the Preakness in the past, including Swiss Skydiver in 2020. Only three have ever won the Kentucky Derby, the last being Winning Colors in 1988.

Why won’t Rich Strike run at Pimlico?

The run by Rich Strike jockey Sonny Leon is now the stuff of legend in the horse racing world. The way he deftly moved around horses and then got by Epicenter and Zandon on the rail was stunning. 

Rich Strike wasn’t even supposed to be in the Derby and was only entered at the last minute when Ethereal Road was pulled. He’s the second-biggest longshot to ever win the race.

Team Rich Strike feels that their horse is better suited to go longer distances and would struggle being wheeled back two weeks after the Derby. With that in mind, the horse’s owner and trainer opted to target the Belmont.

Epicenter, who finished second at the Kentucky Derby, is the morning-line favorite. Zandon, third at the Kentucky Derby, won’t run in either the Preakness or the Belmont.

Past Triple Crown winners

  • Sir Barton (1919)
  • Gallant Fox (1930)
  • Omaha (1935)
  • War Admiral (1937)
  • Whirlaway (1941)
  • Count Fleet (1943)
  • Assault (1946)
  • Citation (1948)
  • Secretariat (1973)
  • Seattle Slew (1977)
  • Affirmed (1978)
  • American Pharoah (2015)
  • Justify (2018)
Photo by AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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