by Claire Novak
It has long been the tradition for starters in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) to saddle on the turf course at Pimlico Race Course, but more than half of this year’s field—including morning-line favorite Rachel Alexandra and Pioneerof the Nile —will be saddled indoors, Maryland Jockey Club paddock judge Mario Verge said May 15.
The trainers of seven Preakness contenders notified Verge of their plans and received permission to saddle indoors before the race. Rachel Alexandra and Pioneerof the Nile will be joined by Papa Clem, Big Drama, Take the Points, Luv Gov, and Flying Private.
Thirteen horses have been entered for the May 16 Preakness, second leg of the Triple Crown.
“Some people prefer inside, we have a lot this year, I think,” Verge said. “The trainers feel the horses will be better off inside, a little bit calmer, and that’s why they do it. There’s not an advantage or disadvantage, but if the trainer feels the horse is better in there, we don’t have a problem with it. They put on the show.”
Rachel Alexandra and Pioneerof the Nile both got acquainted with the indoor paddock at Pimlico May 14 when they schooled there during the fourth race of the day.
“I think it’s just more what she’s accustomed to,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, who conditions Rachel Alexandra. “In the stakes races at Oaklawn Park, that’s how they saddle. We’ll see. If it’s blistering hot outside, we may change our minds, but if it’s pouring down rain, we may all want to be in there.”
Weather forecasts for May 16 in Baltimore are calling for possible thunderstorms—anywhere from a 30% to 70% chance—with a high near 80 degrees. Forecasters said the likelihood of rain increases closer to post time for the Preakness, which is 6:15 p.m.