While most trainers contemplated tactical approaches to mastering speed-favoring Pimlico Race Course and the importance of staying close to the early leaders in the 110th Preakness Stakes, trainer Wayne Lukas talked about whipping.
Jockey Pat Day, who rode Tank's Prospect for the first time today, received a visit and some timely advice from Lukas before the race.
"Wayne came in and said not to be afraid to hit (Tank's Prospect), that he would be able to take a lot of abuse," said Day, who proved Lukas prophetic.
Moving Tank's Prospect two wide into fourth position approaching the final turn, Day whipped the colt three times with his right hand. Tank's Prospect responded with a move towards the rail, shooting past I Am The Game on the inside and into third place.
"I'd seen (Tank's Prospect) run before, so I knew he had a tendency to move to his left around turns," Day said. "If I'd gone outside with him, I might have had to grab him and risk losing momentum."
With three-sixteenths of a mile left, Day got physical. He switched the stick to his left hand and began unleashing strong, rhythmic strokes.
After seven wallops, Tank's Prospect had moved back outside and was gaining on the leaders. At 15 wallops, he overtook weakening Eternal Prince. Twenty, 21, 22 . . . Fast approaching the wire, Day tucked the whip away and deftly hand rode Tank's Prospect as he flew past Chief's Crown for the victory.
"Pat showed why he is one of the finest jockeys in the country," Lukas said. "A trainer can't ask more from a jockey, mentally or physically."
"I felt like if I ever quit being aggressive on him he'd be likely to quit," Day said. "He's a big-city colt and he proved he knows how to take it."
Early in the race, Day thought he might not get a shot at the leaders. Breaking from the gate, Tank's Prospect brushed I Am The Game, and Day's left foot fell out of the iron.
"It cost me two to three lengths," Day said. "Instead of being fifth or sixth I was eighth. I couldn't even see the leaders."
The seven races preceding the Preakness demonstrated the importance of being in or just off the lead. So Chris McCarron, the jockey astride pacesetting Eternal Prince, and jockey Don MacBeth, who stalked him astride Chief's Crown, liked their position along the backstretch and around the turn.
"My horse broke real well and was able to make the lead easily," McCarron said of Eternal Prince. "I felt I had him relaxed. His ears were pricked; he was comfortable. I don't think going that fast (45 1/5 seconds for the first half-mile) cost him that much."
When Chief's Crown overtook Eternal Prince around the final turn, MacBeth thought his first Preakness victory was just two furlongs away.
"The way they've been running here, it didn't seem too likely that we'd get caught. I was hoping (Chief's Crown) would hang on. (Day) happened to have a little more horse."
"I knew I had Eternal Prince beaten," said Day. "But I was unsure about being able to catch Chief's Crown. I knew I was moving faster than he was, but I didn't know if I'd run out of room."
About an hour after winning his first Preakness in two tries, Day, dressed in a tan linen suit, called home to Chicago from the jockey's room. He spoke not of victory but of a fruitless television interview.
"Man, I was waiting for my chance to say something great," Day said. "All I said was that it was a great feeling, and they cut me off."