There's not much doubt in anybody's mind that Kentucky Derby Winner Carry Back should be odds-on to win this week's 5150,000 Preakness, and as usual there will be nobody on the grounds outdoing Carry Back's owner-trainer, Jack Price, in the department of blunt optimism. "He's never looked or felt better in his entire life," said Jolly Jack last weekend. "As a matter of fact, I'm beginning to think that Carry Back is either a great horse or that everything else is a bum. Except for Crozier, the more I see of them all and the more I read of the inconsistent way they run, the more I'm sure they are bums."
Carry Back will be opposed by six or seven horses, of whom only three or four can be considered upset candidates. Four who finished in the first five behind Carry Back in the Derby will give it another try. Crozier, naturally, has to try again. Sherluck and Globemaster are on the grounds, and Dr. Miller warmed up with an easy win in last Saturday's Preakness Prep—a betless affair on a muddy track against a pair of unworthies named Might is Right and Crimson Fury. Both these two probably will be back, although heaven knows why.
From New York may come Hitting Away, winner of The Withers, and some or all of a group of beaten Withers horses including Nashua Blue, Vapor Whirl and Fountain Hill. From New England comes a rumor that Orleans Doge, well-beaten in the recent Blue Grass Stakes by Sherluck, will ship in to prove that this dismal showing as well as other so-so-performances were all horrible mistakes.
None of these should bother Carry Back in the least. Nor should it matter that the Preakness is shorter by one-sixteenth of a mile than the Derby, that Pimlico has a slightly shorter stretch than Churchill Downs, that Pimlico has tighter turns or that the racing surface itself might be fast and thus nullify Carry Back's apparent fondness for off tracks. Carry Back is simply the best horse and has a disturbing habit of steadily reducing the effectiveness of his victims (all but Crozier, that is) after pinning their ears back a couple of times. Even Crozier may not be immune to this kind of treatment forever.
Globemaster, who set the early pace in the Derby, threw a stifle in his right hind leg (roughly the same as a human athlete putting a knee or shoulder momentarily out of joint). Even if this doesn't force Globemaster's retirement, one doesn't trifle with a stifle, and there's no telling when this sort of injury will occur again. Sherluck, Dr. Miller and Hitting Away appear to be ready for top efforts, which is saying something in this day of wear and tear.
Carry Back, under John Sellers again, undoubtedly won't be 16 lengths off the pace up the backstretch, as he was in the Derby. Sellers knows that Dave Erb tried it that way with Needles in 1956 and never got up in time to beat Fabius. "Seven or eight lengths off the pace this time will suit us fine," says Price. "No doubt there will be 1,000 self-appointed experts telling Sellers exactly how to ride my colt, and no doubt I'll be the only one who won't tell him one word. Johnny knows everything about this horse and exactly how to ride him."
As Jack Price adapted himself to his new environment by switching from Kentucky bourbon to Maryland rye, somebody asked him if he considered the Preakness "just another horse race." "Of course not," he said, showing off a solid gold stopwatch given to him by Churchill Downs President Wathen Knebelkamp. "The Preakness is richer than the Derby, isn't it?"