Fast Track for Preakness, Track Superintendent Says

If the rain stops as predicted Friday afternoon, Pimlico track superintendent Jamie Richardson said he expects the dirt surface to be fast on Saturday.

"It happened two years ago for Mineshaft in the Pimilco Special (gr. I) and it was fine by the time Funny Cide ran (in the Preakness, gr. I)," Richardson said.

It began raining in the Baltimore area overnight, and by Friday morning, the track was very sloppy. At the stakes barn, media and officials were huddled under a tent awaiting trainers for interviews.

Very few horses went to the track Friday, although Greeley's Galaxy breezed three furlongs and Afleet Alex galloped. Nick Zito and John Shirreffs were among those who merely had their horses walk the shedrow.

"I didn't want to take any chances," Zito said. "Tracks can get uneven in spots."

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the rain had not let up all day. The three early turf races on the card were taken off the grass course, but The Very One Stakes was to remain on the turf. There were 44 scratches on the 12-race Friday Pimlico card which features the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) and Pimlico Special (gr. I).

"I checked it at noon, and we had received over an inch of rain at that time," Richardson said. "We've obviously received more since then but the track is good and tight; if it stops like the forecast says, it will be fast."

Richardson said in anticipation of the rain, his crew sealed the track Thursday night by rolling it with full water trucks that each weigh about 35,000 pounds.

"That packs the cushion to keep the water out of it. We will just keep going over it with the heavy, steel rollers."

Richardson said the track will only be open for training for 30 minutes Saturday morning, from 5:30-6, and only for horses running on Saturday.

There is a slight chance of rain Saturday afternoon. There are three stakes scheduled for the turf Saturday, and Richardson said there is no reason to think they will not remain on the grass.

Richardson has been at Pimlico for 19 years. He worked with former track superintendent John Passero, who now works for the New York Racing Association.