SHEILAH KAST, host:
A horse whose race nearly ended in catastrophe won yesterday's 130th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
(Soundbite of Preakness Stakes)
Unidentified Man: Scrappy T. went up, but here comes Afleet Alex. There was almost an incident there on top of the stretch. Scrappy T. on the outside, but here comes Afleet Alex at the rail. And down the stretch they come in the Preakness...
KAST: Afleet Alex stumbled and almost threw jockey Jeremy Rose after the thoroughbred's foot became entangled with another horse in the final turn. Afleet Alex's front legs buckled and he nearly fell, but managed to come back not only to finish the race, but to win. Jennie Rees was there to see it. She's a reporter for the Louisville Courrier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. This morning, she's at the Pimlico course in Baltimore.
Good morning, Jennie.
Ms. JENNIE REES (Louisville Courier Journal): Good morning, Sheilah.
KAST: What was the crowd's reaction after Afleet Alex's victory?
Ms. REES: Well, it was just tremendously popular. For one thing, the trainer, Tim Ritchey, lives in Maryland, and the jockey used to ride around Maryland and rides an hour away at Delaware Park, but just the amazing athleticism that the horse, you know, was able to recover. And watching it--you couldn't tell exactly watching it live what happened at first. It was just like a blur, but you knew that there was--something dramatic happened, and then watching the replays, when the horse that ended up finishing second, Scrappy T., just like bolted in front of Afleet Alex when he was at full speed, making this huge rush, and as you said, their legs got tangled up, and Afleet Alex nearly went down.
KAST: And if Afleet Alex had fallen, how would that have affected the results of the horse that clipped him, Scrap...
Ms. REES: It would have been the most controversial outcome in the history of Triple Crown racing, because Scrappy T. would have been disqualified from finishing first. He would have to have been disqualified between the horse that he impeded, and if Afleet Alex had fallen and not been able to finish the race, that meant Scrappy T. would have been placed last, which would have meant Giacomo, the Kentucky Derby winner, on the disqualification, would have won the Preakness and, hence, be eligible for the Triple Crown going into the Belmont.
KAST: The third leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 11th. How does that race differ from the first two?
Ms. REES: Well, one thing, it's going to have a lot less horses than the Derby and the Preakness. There doesn't seem too many horses that are going on to the Belmont at this point. And Afleet Alex trainer Tim Ritchey has said that they would be going, provided everything is fine with the horse, and I'm watching him walk around the barn right now, and he looks fine. I'm actually also watching Giacomo graze, and he looks fine, but he's going back to California today, and it's unclear whether he'll return.
KAST: The Belmont is a longer race than the Preakness.
Ms. REES: It's a mile and a half, and the Preakness is a mile and 3/16ths.
KAST: And will Afleet Alex now be the favorite there?
Ms. REES: Absolutely, he'll be the favorite. He has stamped himself as, by far, the best three-year-old. He was a very, very good two-year-old, and he has carried that form over. If he wins the Belmont, people will start thinking--he only loses the Derby by a total of a length, and it was a really roughly run race--what might have been.
KAST: Jennie Rees is a reporter for Courrier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. She spoke with us from the barns at Pimlico.
Ms. REES: Thanks, Sheilah.
KAST: It's 22 minutes before the hour.
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