Vince Bracciale Jr. rode his mount to victory amid the roar of Pimlico's record crowd of 87,652 today, crossing the finish line well before any of the horses in the Preakness Stakes.
About 65 minutes before.
Bracciale's charge through the stretch came in a $150,000 stakes race that preceded the Preakness. His chance for the national spotlight, a $40,000 payday and an out-of-breath interview with ABC-TV's Charlsie Cantey was squelched some 10 days before, when owner Bob Meyerhoff and trainer Dick Small said Chris McCarron, not Bracciale, would ride Broad Brush in the Preakness.
Broad Brush had won four of five races under Bracciale, finishing third in his last start, the Kentucky Derby.
"I had my chance, and I got beat," Bracciale said after the Preakness. "If I would have won the Derby and got taken off, I would have been hot. I was disappointed when I got taken off of him, but I understood [Meyerhoff's] situation.
"Not that I'm better than Chris or he's better than me, but I think it would have been more advantageous to them to keep the same jockey. Still, I was hoping he would win."
Donald Miller Jr., who rode Miracle Wood to fifth in the Preakness and is the second-leading jockey at Pimlico, said, "That's what I've been telling everybody all week: You can't change the rider, because he [the new jockey] doesn't know the horse.
"When you're talking about the caliber of jockeys that ride in these kinds of races, the difference is so minimal; it's mostly the horses."
While McCarron slipped into Meyerhoff's yellow-and-blue diamond racing silks, climbed atop Broad Brush and headed out for the protracted post parade, Bracciale put on blue jeans, a white Izod shirt, a beat-up USA baseball cap and sneakers. He watched the 111th Preakness from the jockeys' room. "They've got cameras in here that give you all kinds of angles and shots," he said.
Bracciale watched the race unfold as he had expected: Broad Brush sitting third behind the speed, poised to strike as they turned for home.
But his foresight was limited. Broad Brush faltered in the stretch, as Snow Chief pulled away and Ferdinand rallied for second. Broad Brush barely finished third, a nose ahead of Badger Land and 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Going in, McCarron shared Bracciale's outlook. Coming out, in soiled silks, his face dotted with dried dirt, he offered an unscientific synopsis.
"All the way down the backside, I liked my position," he said. "When Badger Land moved up on the outside of me, I asked my horse to go, and he did, but he wasn't able to sustain that run for very long."
Said Bracciale, "I would have ridden him the same way."
Who will ride Broad Brush next and when that will be has not been announced. Small usually makes no plans for a horse until he's certain the animal emerged healthy from his previous race. And Broad Brush has had four grueling efforts in eight weeks.
"After the outcome of the race, I don't think it would have made any difference," Bracciale said. "He got third, and maybe I would have been fourth. The big thing is that [Meyerhoff] had more confidence with Chris on the ropes."
And McCarron says that confidence makes a difference. "[Meyerhoff] told me he's got the utmost confidence in me and that he was tickled to death to get my services," he said. "That to me doesn't cause any more pressure; it gives me more confidence. I can ride more comfortably that way.
"They still don't know why Snow Chief ran so badly in the Derby. I don't know why Broad Brush ran so poorly today. It wasn't that bad a race, but I certainly think he can run better than he did. I know his connections do, too."