When we hear the words “Kentucky Derby” we might think of overpriced Mint Julep drinks, oversized floral hats, or twin spire roof tops, but the Preakness Stakes, (the second leg of the Triple Crown) is going after a slightly different image.
Advertisements sending the message,” Kegasus..Lord of the Infield Fest” … The third Saturday in May and the Preakness Stakes come to Pimlico. For some that means sitting with their Fiance’ trying not to spill Cabernet Sauvignon on your brand new Kakis. But for those with thirst for something different, there’s Infield Fest. That’s where you’ll find Kegasus, half man half thoroughbred, all party manimal!
The advertising campaign is meant to appeal to racing fans of all ages, genre’s, and lifestyles, with the Infield Festival becoming an event within an event! The overall layout of Preakness day venue offers something for everyone. The Preakness Village for business class with a taste for champagne and high end food, sponsored by corporations such as Under Armor and Visa. Patrons looking for a similar experience without a corporate connection can opt for Turfside Terrace, located on the inside apron of the racecourse from the head of the stretch to the finish line, while more traditional race goers can opt for tickets inside the caverness Grandstand and Clubhouse with the ability to hold 35,000 standing and seated patrons. Last but certainly not least, the lion’s share of the annual Preakness day revenue, The Infield Festival. For those who prefer to party and play their way up to the big race, the atmosphere the infield portion of the racecourse, (designed to hold 60,000 people) offers live music from national recording artist Bruno Mars, several other local bands, $20 all you can drink draft beer, bikini contests, food eating contest and many other activities throughout the day.
Now, if you’ve made it this far in this article, you are probably starting to think, “Why do I care about all of this horse racing stuff… I’m into the Equestrian side of the horse world!” Or, “I like the Kentucky Derby as an annual event, the rest are just races and have no long term benefit to me.” I don’t plan to be involved in thoroughbred horseracing
Not so fast. There’s a much bigger picture for you to see and consider.
A 201 longshot, Animal Kingdom captured this years’ Kentucky Derby by a widening 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. He has now won three of his five career races while earning $1,738,700.
The head of Team Valor racing partnership, Barry Irwin has played an important role in every phase of Animal Kingdom’s conception and development. The Kentuckybased horseman said he purchased the colt’s dam, group III winner Dalicia, at a BadenBaden mixed auction in Germany and the daughter of Acatenango ran for Team Valor and the Haisfields’ NeverTell Racing in this country. Irwin and Team Valor also were involved in campaigning Animal Kingdom’s sire during part of his career and were the key players in the deal that sent Leroidesanimaux to the Haisfields’ Stonewall stallion operation.
The mating that produced Animal Kingdom came about because Leroidesanimaux “was the best horse available on the day,” Irwin said. “We originally had Dalicia booked to Kingmambo, but he went offline because he hurt his back or something. We had to come up with something else and that (breeding her to Leroidesanimaux) was what I came up with after considering his bloodlines and overall distance pedigree. It certainly has worked out so far.”
Team Valor currently has racing stables on three continents and in many countries throughout the world. Dubai, South Africa and the United States to name a few.
The greater point I’m trying to make regarding the Triple Crown races and other great Thoroughbred Racing venues is that incredible amounts of time, money and thought go into the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses every year for the past two centuries. Breeding, with an emphasis to produce swift speed, (up to 40 mph) and stamina that will carry that speed up to a mile and a half through sandy dirt surfaces and over lush turf courses while minimizing catastrophic breakdowns.
For every 3yr old racehorse that makes it to the triple crown each year, there are another thirty to forty “THOUSAND” that don’t make it to those events. More importantly, nearly 30% of all thoroughbreds born in the US never make it as racehorses. Many thoroughbreds given opportunities at the track, run a few times and often retire completely sound because they lack the interest or speed necessary to compete at worthy levels. Wow, that’s an awfully big market to choose from! Imagine that, and you didn’t have to invest a dime of money or a minute of time to procure the breeding necessary to create such an animal.
Let there be no confusion, we won’t be seeing Dialed In or Mucho Macho Man going over jumps any time soon but with a bit of research, luck and timing, you could however, see a close cousin or relative winning an Equestrian Championship sometime soon.
Because of the mass amount of national media attention, the Triple Crown races, (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes) are the best venues to gain insight into the world of horse racing, otherwise known as,”The Sport of Kings.” This in turn will likely give the Equestrian reader a reasonable understanding of racing heritage. After all, we know that any type of involvement with horses, (racing or eventing) is a full time venture in and of itself.
Myself and many others have been trying to find ways to bring the Equestrian and Thoroughbred racing worlds closer together for the greater good of both. Self interest is usually a good starting point in anything, especially in the “What’s in it for me” world we live in now.
Both sports have much to gain by becoming silent partners. The racehorses find alternate professions and the equestrian owners find affordable champions!
This philosophy is one that is rapidly gaining traction as more and more “Off Track Thoroughbreds” or OTTB’s are making it to the top levels of the equestrian world. At this year’s 2011 Rolex competition 7 out of the top 26 finishers, (St. Barths 8th place and Shiraz 12th to name a few) were OTTB’s. That’s over 25%!
Organizations like “After the Finish Line” afterthefinishline.org run by Dawn Mellen of Southern California are also making great strides in helping racehorses transition to the Equestrian world.
You never know, maybe the next Off Track Thoroughbred becomes the Animal Kingdom of the Equestrian world!!
Here is this year’s field of horses for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes being broadcast by NBC Sports starting at 4:30 EST Post Time for the Preakness Stakes is 6:19 EST
Story and photos by: Rick Buckley