BALTIMORE — Jesus’ Team hadn’t won against elite competition going into the Preakness, and his owners had to pay extra money just to get him to the starting gate of the Triple Crown race because he wasn’t nominated.
From that point on, he did the rest, edging out Art Collector for third behind winning filly Swiss Skydiver and favorite Authentic. Jesus’ Team hit the board at 40-1 odds Saturday, a major surprise in the 11-horse field.
“He ran big,” said Jevian Toledo, a Maryland-based jockey who got the chance because of pandemic-related travel restrictions. “I got a really nice trip. I can’t complain. He gave me everything he had. We had no excuse. The other two horses were just much the best, but he was running all the way to the wire.”
Jesus’ Team was coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Kentucky Derby day Sept. 5 and was stepping up in competition in the Grade 1 Preakness. He showed he belonged.
“He’s really improved every day,” trainer Jose D’Angelo said. “I’m very, very proud of him. He’s like a kid, you know. Every day with him, we’re very proud.”
Jesus’ Team finished a head in front of Art Collector, the 2-1 second choice in wagering. Art Collector, who came back after being scratched from the Derby with a minor foot ailment, was pinned between horses for much of the race as jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. didn’t get the ride he was hoping for.
“You’ve got to be proud of the horse,” . Just to get to this level and for him to be fourth today, it was a big effort off of eight weeks.”
NO PREAKNESS PARTY
There was no traffic jam, no one hawking souvenirs or food outside Pimlico Race Course and not a six-pack in sight.
The scene inside the track was even weirder. The infield was devoid of fans and rock bands, there was no one in the grandstand and no one at the betting windows. There were no vendors selling Black-Eyed Susan drinks because there was no one there to buy them.
And, sadly, no cheering or yelling as the horses headed toward the finish line.
Was this really Preakness Day in Baltimore?
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the traditional second jewel of the Triple Crown was now the last in the series, and instead of being run under a blazing sun during the third week in May, the 12-race card was held on an October afternoon better suited for football.
Media members were placed in the part of a clubhouse usually frequented by high-rollers who would make their bets and windows in the back of the room. The clubhouse one floor down served as a socially distanced jockeys room. Distancing of at least 6 feet and masks were required.
On a typical Preakness morning, some owners and trainers stand in front of the stakes barn and share their thoughts on the day ahead with writers and TV folks.
Not this year, because that section of the facility was closed to the media.
Fortunately for Pimlico, the future is bright. Over the past several years, the rumor was that the esteemed race would leave the timeworn facility for nearby Laurel Park.
Gov. Larry Hogan in May permitted a bill to become law that would enable the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $375 million in bonds to refurbish both tracks. The money would be paid back by the Maryland Lottery and casino proceeds already designated to subsidize the racing industry.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN UPSET
Miss Marissa held off a furious charge by favored Bonny South to win a thrilling Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
After wrestling the lead from Mizzen Beau in the stretch, Miss Marissa charged to its third straight victory and paid $22.20, $7.80 and $4.80.
The 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 race for 3-year-old fillies is usually held in May on the day before the Preakness. This year, it was run immediately prior to the Preakness.
Bonny South was last among the 10 horses for much of the race before finally breaking to the outside in a comeback bid by jockey Florent Geroux. The rally came up short by about a half-length.
Denied its fourth win in seven career races, Bonny South paid $2.80 and $2.20. Hopeful Growth took third and Missen Beau finished fourth.
LOCAL JOCKEYS GET CHANCE
Toledo wasn’t the only local rider with a mount in the Preakness. He was joined by Trevor McCarthy on Liveyourbeastlife, Sheldon Russell aboard Excession and Horatio Karamanos on Ny Traffic.
Excession was sixth, Ny Traffic ninth and Liveyourbeastlife 11th.
“It’s always nice to even just ride on Preakness Day. To pick up a mount in the Preakness makes me even happier,” Russell said.
The fans, the bands and the traffic weren’t the only things missing from this year’s Preakness.
Maryland’s state song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” was also absent – and no return is planned in the years ahead.
The ballad, which celebrates the Confederacy, is considered by some to be racist and has been eliminated as the go-to song before the big race.
Songwriter and producer Wyclef Jean and composer Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony planned to play ” unique and inclusive piece curated for this year’s event.”