A P Valentine improves on Derby finish at Preakness
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Point Given wasn't the only horse to rebound from a poor showing in the Kentucky Derby.
A P Valentine, a distant seventh at Churchill Downs, finished strong and grabbed second place in Saturday's Preakness.
"He's a good horse who's getting better all the time," trainer Nick Zito said. "Other than a big effort by Point Given, he's going to win the race."
The performance of A P Valentine was vindication for Zito, who spent the past two weeks trying to figure out what went wrong in the Derby. Maybe it was a jockey change; Victor Espinoza replaced Corey Nakatani.
"He got nothing out of the Kentucky Derby, but he really dug in for Victor," Zito said. "He's come back to show the kind of horse that he is and I'm very thankful that he ran as strong a second as he did."
Zito has had 10 horses in the Preakness. Besides A P Valentine, the only two horses to finish in the money were Louis Quatorze, who won in 1996, and Go For Gin (second place in 1994).
Next stop for A P Valentine: The Belmont.
"Now he's back on track. Let's hope we get three good week from him now," Zito said.
Not even close
Bay Eagle, the 80-1 long shot in the Preakness, didn't come close to pulling off an upset.
He didn't finish last, either, and that was good enough for jockey Ramon Dominguez.
"It was a good effort by him. He beat three horses," Dominguez said. "He's a good horse and we haven't seen the best of him."
Stuck in 10th place heading into the stretch, Bay Eagle passed two horses to cross the wire in eighth place.
"This was my first Preakness and it was great, very thrilling," Dominguez said.
Rain, rain, go away
Next to a blackout, the last thing Joe De Francis needed Saturday was a rainy day.
Pimlico Race Course draws more than half its income from the Preakness, so awful weather would have dramatically cut into attendance at the track. At $35 a head for a spot in the infield, that's a significant chunk of change.
"We've gone 40 days without rain. If it would have rained today, I would have jumped off the top of the press box and impaled myself on a large pole," said De Francis, president and CEO of the track.
An overnight rain in the neighborhood ended by dawn. Although clouds hovered throughout the day, at least it wasn't 90 degrees. The last time that happened, in 1998, the track lost millions because of a power outage.
Three hours before Saturday's race, De Francis was confident that all was right with the 126th Preakness.
"We caught a tremendous break with the weather," De Francis said. "For two inches of rain to fall Preakness day would have been disastrous."
A track record 104,454 showed up Saturday, easily shattering the old record of 100,311 in 1999.
The good weather meant more than just dollars and cents to De Francis, who has been a horseracing enthusiast for much of his life.
"I think this is one of the best classes of 3-year-olds to come around in a long, long time," he said. "It would have really been a shame to see anyone's chances compromised by an off track. The race track is perfect, so hopefully the best horse wins today."
Running in the Preakness has become an annual ritual for Pat Day, whose ride Saturday aboard Dollar Bill was his 15th in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The 15 rides tied Day with Eddie Arcaro for most at the Preakness. Day was looking for his sixth win, which would tie Arcaro for most career victories in the race.
He finished fourth.
Day said AP Valentine beat him to a hole at the 4 1/2-furlong pole, forcing him four wide.
"We got free on the outside and he came running to get fourth money," Day said. "I just wish I could get this horse a good trip."
The majority of the people in the Pimlico infield weren't interested in seeing Monarchos keep alive his bid for the Triple Crown.
They plunked down their $35 to be part of one big party, where drinking and socializing was a bigger priority than watching the races.
Dave Rather, who organized a trip carrying four busloads of people, was the exception. He dispatched an advance team at 6:30 a.m. to stake out a spot by the fence at the far turn.
"The key is to get fence space, so you can at least see the horses," said Rather, who was wearing a stylish straw hat covered with fake black-eyed Susans and tiny plastic horses. "If you're not on the fence, you don't even know there's a horse race going on."
Seeing the conclusion of the race from the fenced-in infield was not an option; no one could get within 100 yards of the finish line.