Preakness goes down to the wire

There are a handful of sporting events popular enough to garner national attention. 

The Super Bowl and men’s NCAA tournament are two of them, but the locations change every year. The Masters in Augusta, Ga., and the Kentucky Derby are known for their venues just as much as the events themselves.

The Preakness is in this class.

The 137th Run for the Black-Eyed Susans proved why the race has maintained its reputation, as tourists and local residents packed downtown Baltimore Saturday. Officials estimated that 112,000 people were on hand to witness the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. The announced attendance last year was 107,398.

After the race, crowds gathered around buses outside. Other horseracing fans walked hastily towards cabs and limos hoping to beat the traffic.

Preakness fans gather outside the bus. (Photo by Zach Sparks)

Kelly Danielle traveled from Atlanta with her mom and stepfather to watch her second Preakness. 

“It’s been wonderful,” Danielle said. “The horses are great. The people are great. Baltimore has been very welcoming.”

Danielle and the other spectators witnessed an exciting race similar to the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

I’ll Have Another was coming off a victory in which he surpassed the perennial favorite Bodemeister during the final stretch. With jockey Mario Gutierrez holding the reigns, I’ll Have Another repeated that performance. I’ll Have Another was in third place and Bodemesiter appeared to be pulling away with just over a furlong to go in the Preakness Stakes. Suddenly I’ll Have Another charged forward and pulled even with Bodemesier on the outside. The Kentucky Derby winner surged ahead at the finish line, winning by a neck.

The race yielded the closest possible outcome and added to the number of exciting Preakness finishes over the past few years.

A year ago, 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom was in the same position as I’ll Have Another. Animal Kingdom surged ahead during the final stretch of the Preakness. He closed in on Shackelford, but failed to take the lead.

Going into the 2010 Preakness, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver was favored 2-1 to take the second leg. Lookin At Lucky, 13-4 odds, spoiled that outcome with an upset.

Rachel Alexandra defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by ¾ of a length in 2009.

The last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness was in 2008. Big Brown, who did not win the Belmont Stakes, cruised to a commanding victory. That makes five consecutive memorable Preakness finishes.

I’ll Have Another, Gutierrez and trainer Doug O’ Neil will set their sights on winning the Belmont Stakes and the third leg of the Triple Crown. It would be the first time since Affirmed won in 1978. Eleven horses since then have had won the first two legs but not the third.

I’ll Have Another might have the best chance out of them all. His top challenger, Bodemesiter, is reportedly out for the Belmont Stakes. Nothing can beat the exciting finish from the Preakness. Without the premier matchup of Bodemesiter vs. I’ll Have Another, the Belmont Stakes will lack the premier matchup that made the first two races so exciting.

The 2012 Preakness will remain an example of why the race is viewed as a national sporting event.