Standing near the gap to the north of the industrial-gray Pimlico grandstand, a local horse jogged by and its exercise rider did a double take. The local rider stared in awe at the chestnut champion for as long as he could without turning his body entirely around and riding his horse backward.
It symbolized the difference between a normal day of business at the Baltimore track and how things go in mid-May.
Preakness Stakes (G1) time is here.
The whole field for the second leg of the Triple Crown isn't on the grounds yet, but the three who arrived first May 14 took their first trips out to the Pimlico main track Tuesday.
Good Magic, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) runner-up owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, was the only of the trio to gallop over the sloppy main track.
The Curlin colt galloped slowly—a little more than 1 1/4 miles, according to trainer Chad Brown's on-site assistant Jose Hernandez—around the Pimlico oval and got a good look at the unfamiliar surroundings.
"The horse trained really well and took to the track really well," Hernandez said. "The track is sloppy, but he handled it pretty well. He galloped a little more than a mile and a quarter and he liked it."
Malasquez also said Good Magic took to the off surface well.
"I didn't see too much difference—the track was like Churchill (Downs when it was wet before the Derby). ... You'd expect him to be a little down after (the Derby), but he's the same. I was surprised, too, after a race like that," the rider said.
Good Magic came off the track with some sweat on his neck and inside his back legs, but Hernandez attributed that to a warm morning and his new surroundings. Hernandez sent the colt out later in the day (around 8:40 a.m. ET) with hopes the track would dry out more in the heat after it was soaked by rain overnight, but said his training the next morning would likely be earlier.
"It's humid and a little warm, and it's normal for him. He always does that," said Hernandez, who also traveled with Cloud Computing ahead of his 2017 Preakness win. "He'll sweat a little bit, but not much. It's fine. He'll be better tomorrow, when we take him out around 7:30 (a.m.). It'll be cooler."
Out on a pony himself to get a good look at the pair, the Hall of Fame trainer was happy with what he saw.
"Good energy," Lukas said. "When we van in, they're in box stalls, and with a 12-hour van ride, you think, 'Well, they're going to be flat or something.' Then they get off the van, and they act like they never even left their stalls. On the way in I said we'd walk them today, but once I saw them off the van and saw that they never turned a hair ... I said, 'Let's jog them today and let them look around a bit.'"
Lukas was happy with how the track handled the moisture, although he noticed it changed even in the minutes between the two jog sessions early in the morning.
"It changed from the first horse to the second horse. It was amazing," Lukas said. "I went out there ... and was surprised at the amount of water on it, but by the time I got back—14, 15 minutes later—and took the second horse out, I told the outrider, 'This thing is better right now.' It changed immensely. It obviously handles this very well. ... From a trainer's standpoint, a track like this, they could never put too much water on it. It needs that down in there to get some bounce to it.
"If we get showers, then a little sunshine, a little breeze—I'm all for a shower every day."
Lukas also opined on Preakness past and present, and acknowledged the longshot status of both his horses.
"I'm excited because I like the big arena. I like to compete, and you hope you have the one," the six-time Preakness winner said. "Sometimes you get lucky. Oxbow a couple years ago came in here (and won the Preakness in 2013), nobody knew he was here. ... At this point in my career, I'm realistic, though, too. When you're 30 you think you're going to beat everybody. At 82 you think, 'Well, maybe Justify is a little tough.'
"But you still enjoy the moment, and you still enjoy the competition and getting out there."