Spectacular Bid had a glorious homecoming today. He won the 104th Preakness Stakes, and he did it in a manner that left no doubt about his greatness.
He circled the field and drew off to win by 5 1/2 decisive lengths over Golden Act. He covered the 13/16th miles at Pimlico in 1:54 1/5, missing the track record by only a fifth of a second.
And when it was over, Ron Franklin, Bid's 19-year-old jockey, confidently crowed, "We're a cinch for the Triple Crown."
While his performance seemed utterly effortless and completely predictable, Spectacular Bid had to overcome the attempt of jockey Angel Cordero Jr., aboard third-place finisher Screen King to intimidate Ron Franklin, Bid's inexperienced rider.
As soon as the five-horse field broke from the gate, Cordero seemed to be looking for Franklin, who had accused him of conspiring against the horse in the Florida Derby this winter. Spectacular Bid broke a bit sluggishly, as usual, and Cordero angled his mount toward him, trying to cut him off.
While Flying Paster and General Assembly were racing head-and-head to the first turn, Franklin first angled toward the rail to stay out of Cordero's way, then started looking for a chance to move outside. As in the Kentucky Derby, he wanted to avoid all possible trouble and give Spectacular Bid all the running room he needed.
Cordero, however, anticipated this, and kept Screen King well out from the rail, almost daring Franklin to try to save ground inside of him. Franklin declined the gambit, and kept Spectacular Bid very wide on the backstretch. Midway down the backstretch, he asked the colt to run.
The crowd of 72,607 roared as Spectacular Bid started to accelerate in the fashion that had carried him to 11 straight victories.
Flying Paster and General Assembly were leading at the time, with Screen King moving outside them and Spectacular Bid outside them all. As Spectacular Bid swooshed by and angled toward the rail slightly, Cordero stood up momentarily in the irons, overreacting as jockeys sometimes do in claiming a foul.
"Bid came in on me when he went by," Cordero insisted. "He hit me hard enough to cut up my horse. He ran good but he got cut up all over."
For Franklin, seeing Cordero check his horse was sweet revenge. "When he took his horse outside that wasn't good sportsmanship," the 19-year-old said, "but he was race-riding, doing his job. At the half-mile pole, though, I had enough horse to do some race-riding myself, and tried to push him back in."
As soon as Spectacular Bid had raced past the leaders on the turn, the Preakness was over. General Assembly, an in-and-outer all season already was beginning to weaken from his modest efforts up to that point.
Flying Paster was fading, too. He was further hurt when Golden Act swerved in front of him in the stretch, motivating jockey Don Pierce to lodge a claim of foul against Cordero. It was disallowed.
With all the other horses having eventful races, Golden Act had trailed the field all the way, saved ground, and rallied up the rail to finish second, four lengths in front of Screen King.
Spectacular Bid returned $2.20 to win and place, and Golden Act $5.60 to place. There was no show betting. The exacta paid $15.80.
Spectacular Bid's performance compared favorably with those of the best Preakness winners of recent years. The Pimlico racing strip was officially designated as "good" because of early-morning rains, but it was in fact almost exactly as fast as the tracks over which Seattle Slew and Affirmed won in the last two years.
Both of them were timed in 1:54 2/5, one fifth slower than Spectacular Bid ran.
Spectacular Bid figures to join them, three weeks hence at Belmont Park, as the third consecutive winner of the Triple Crown. CAPTION: Picture, Spectacular Bid, with Ron Franklin in the stirrups, rolls across finish line 5 1/2 lengths in front of the field. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post