Big Event Mentality Dulls Preakness Stakes Buzz

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Ed DeRosa

May 18th, 2016

In a recent horseplayer conversation blog post, John Scheinman and Action Andy discussed the buzz—or lack thereof—surrounding this year’s Preakness Stakes in the week leading up to the race.

I can’t disagree. As discussed with Vance Hanson on a recent episode of Turf Talk, whatever excitement there was last year with American Pharoah going into the Preakness (and even two years ago with California Chrome) is not present this year despite Nyquist—as a undefeated champion Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner—being more accomplished than both those Kentucky Derby-winning Preakness favorites.

Scheinman and Action offer two possibilities for the lack of buzz: 1. a hangover from American Pharoah’s historic run that not only snapped a 38-year drought but also ended with him completing the first-ever Grand Slam with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and 2. That the spring meeting at Pimlico Race Course was basically reduced to a Preakness meeting with a later start time and an even more concentrated stakes schedule.

Both are salient points that contribute to the lack of buzz, but I’m here to add a third reason: People are waiting.

The Big Event culture of racing is more about moving on to the next big thing than anticipating it. Sure, the Derby and Breeders’ Cup break that mold, and the Belmont Stakes as well with a Triple Crown on the line (though this year might feel differently), but for the most part the big days are so much bigger in racing that enjoying them in that moment is now enough for most people.

In a span of about 33 hours on Friday-Saturday, Pimlico Race Course will run 28 races, including the 141st Preakness Stakes. There are stakes races and guaranteed pools galore. It will be a fun weekend of racing and betting. But it will be a long one. Do you really want to even approach your peak days away from that kind of event?

So horseplayers wait just as the millennials of Baltimore and the capital region wait for The Chainsmokers and Fetty Wap.

Going forward, though, if Nyquist were to win the Preakness and head Belmont with a chance at joining Seattle Slew as the only undefeated Triple Crown winner, then the story line has to be whether he is better than American Pharoah.

The Exaggerator “rivalry” is OK except even if the margin is a nose that will make Nyquist 5-0 against his supposed rival. Some will talk up the undefeated Unified or Suddenbreakingnews’s trouble in the Derby, and that’s great fodder for horseplayers, but it makes the casual sports fan glaze over faster than a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

No, the sports fans and the shock jocks that entertain them need hot takes, and a strong opinion on Nyquist versus American Pharoah gives it to them. On the industry side of the equation, the trades could get some mileage rehashing I’ll Have Another missing his Triple Crown try in 2012, and the various conspiracy theories surround it.

But those story lines aren’t in play yet. For now it’s an undefeated champion Kentucky Derby winner going for Preakness glory. People aren’t talking about it much now, but they will be on Saturday. For FREE Ultimate Past Performances of the Preakness Stakes, CLICK HERE