Since the controversial Kentucky Derby, horse racing has been prominent in mainstream sports media like seldom before.
And that's why it is especially regrettable that the two horses who could claim to have won an unprecedented Derby — Maximum Security and Country House — aren't racing in Saturday's Preakness Stakes Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Sure, the second leg of the Triple Crown is taking a hit by those abstentions. But the buildup to this week's race still lends itself to some good story lines to follow.
Here are five reasons why the Preakness still worth watching even without Maximum Security, Country House:
1. War of Will is running
War of Will trains at Churchill Downs prior to the Kentucky Derby. April 30, 2019. (Photo: By Pat McDonogh, Courier Journal)
One of the other horses involved in the Derby controversy did opt in for the Preakness, and War of Will is an intriguing horse to watch for several reasons.
Opinions are varied on whether War of Will had a genuine shot to win the Derby had he not been impeded by Maximum Security drifting into his path. We'll never know what would have happened otherwise, but of the horses most affected, War of Will did appear to have the most energy left in him as the horses neared the stretch. If War of Will wins the Preakness, those thoughts of a potential Derby run deterred would be validated.
Plus, War of Will is a good story anyway. He was running in the Derby after coming off a minor injury in his previous race – and from the dreaded No. 1 post position.
Maximum Security ruling: Jockey Luis Saez suspended over Derby finish
2. The Baffert factor
Trainer Bob Baffert ponders a question outside his barn on the backside of Churchill Downs. Baffert has three horses in the Kentucky Derby, Improbable, Roadster and Game Winner. May 2, 2019. (Photo: By Pat McDonogh, Courier Journal)
It's interesting that of his three touted runners in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert selected only one of them to run back on two weeks rest in the Preakness.
Improbable actually went off as the post-time favorite in the Derby – barely edging Maximum Security in the final moments – and ended up finishing fourth after the winner's disqualification, ahead of stablemates Game Winner and Roadster.
It's likely that Improbable will be the favorite in the Preakness, too, and much like War of Will, he would gain a ton of respect for winning this one after also running in the Derby.
3. A Derby dark horse returns
You might remember Win Win Win from such articles as the series I wrote this year focusing on three horses trying the Kentucky Derby trail. Win Win Win was the only one of the three to actually make it. He was a trendy upset pick for the Derby but ended up getting lost in the pack and not taking to the wet conditions, finishing ninth.
Win Win Win traveled to Kentucky for his past two races. But in the Preakness, he'll be running on home ground, so to speak. Trainer Michael Trombetta is based in Maryland.
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4. Kelly Rubley
If you love a good long shot story, get to know the trainer for Alwaysmining. Rubley has an interesting back story as a relative outsider for Triple Crown races, but her successful 3-year-old horse could have a shot after six consecutive wins, mostly in stakes company.
If he wins the next one, he would be the first Maryland-bred horse to win the Preakness in 36 years.
5. It's a good betting race
While the Kentucky Derby winner typically takes the most money before the Preakness, there probably won't be a heavy favorite this time.
As of Monday, USRacing.com had odds of 3-1 on Improbable and 7-2 on War of Will. But both of those horses are running back quickly from the Derby, meaning another horse like Alwaysmining (5-1), Bourbon War (6-1), Owendale (6-1) or others could all be worth a long look.
Preakness field: Maximum Security, Country House are out
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