The Preakness week Alibi Breakfast is supposed to have begun in the late 1930s as an informal gathering of horsemen who gathered on the porch of the Pimlico clubhouse, swapped stories and exchanged information.
Over the years the breakfast evolved into an official event billed as an opportunity for trainers to offer pre-race alibis for their Preakness runners and for Pimlico management to hand out awards to journalists and racing figures.
At this year's breakfast, Ken McPeek, trainer of Harlan's Holiday, seventh in the Derby as the betting favorite, was asked by master of ceremonies Chris Lincoln, "What the hell happened?" McPeek would only say, "What if I told you I'm not going to need an alibi this weekend?"
At Lincoln's request, Bob Baffert, trainer of front-running Derby winner War Emblem, came up with three alibis in the event that his horse fails to win the Preakness. "My first alibi will be, 'The bastard's got me,' Baffert said, in reference to the challenges War Emblem figures to get on the front end from Booklet and Table Limit on Saturday. "My second alibi will be, 'I told Victor this colt couldn't rate.' And my third will be 'I knew there was a reason we got him so cheap.'" Baffert bought War Emblem on behalf of Prince Ahmad Salman of Saudi Arabia for $900,000 just weeks before the Derby.
John Ward, trainer of Booklet, said he enjoys his role as the spoiler after coming to the Preakness in 2001 with Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. He said he has Baffert looking over his shoulder at him, but "the best thing is Kenny McPeek offered to pay my way home if I set the pace. I must be everybody's friend."
Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis presented a Special Award of Merit to recently retired Maryland steward John Heisler. Journalists honored were Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form
with the David Wood Memorial Award for best Preakness story from 2001; Molly Riley of Reuters news service for best Preakness photo in a new award sponsored by Nikon; and Michele MacDonald of Thoroughbred Times
and Baltimore radio personality Stan Charles with the Old Hilltop Award.