My Preakness Experience
By: Shannel Cacho
The Preakness Stakes is the second jewel of the Triple Crown, and with HRRN being the home to your Triple Crown broadcast; it is only natural that that was my next trip. We arrived in Maryland on the Tuesday before the Preakness and had various events that we attended between that Tuesday and Saturday of the Preakness. I was excited to be attending the Preakness because it is an American Classic race that always brings out great talent both for the Preakness and the Preakness undercard. Usually after the Derby I am really pumped for the Preakness, but I think without there being a Triple Crown hopeful and with all of the drama that has surrounded the Derby it tainted my excitement a bit.
As I did with the Oaks and the Derby, I decided to participate in the walkover, although this time it was a last minute decision on my part. Our booth is located on the roof of the grandstand, and I had been planning on watching the race from the roof so that I could see the entire race with my own eyes instead of having to watch the TV’s. However, about two hours before the race, Jeff one of our reporters asked me if I was going to be down there with them again and I decided to say yes. That walkover was a bit different than the walkover for the Derby, because not only was it quicker, but the horses split up to either get saddled outside or in the paddock inside. The walkover for the Preakness is quicker because all of the horses are stabled in the same barn and that barn is relatively close to the track. Once the walkover started I stayed with one of our reporters Tom, so that I could take pictures of him as he interviewed the trainers from the various connections. I decided to follow the horses that were going in to the paddock, and started a live stream on Twitter so that our fans could watch the horses as they got saddled and as their jockeys got on.
Once riders up was called and the horses were ready to start leaving the track, I walked back outside and found the rest of my team on the track who were standing near the veterinary observation stand that is almost directly across from the finish line. The horses started to make their way to the track and then the post parade was under way. Next thing I knew it was time for the horses to get loaded into the gate, and then the bell rang and the starting gate opened. As soon as the gates opened, I felt myself gasp as I saw John Velasquez fall to the ground as Bodexpress lurched out of the starting gate. My eyes at that point were torn between trying to see if Johnny was okay and watching the other horses that were coming closer into my view. Rather quickly I saw him get up, and I also noted that Bodexpress seemed to be fine because he was running with the rest of the horses. All of us who were on the track were on high alert since Bode was running free with no rider, and we obviously wanted to stay safe but also keep him safe as well. As we all pressed back against the rail, the field stormed past us and Bode was still running in the pack and was focused on finishing his job. Once I could no longer tell which horse was which, my vision focused onto the big screen until the horses hit the turn right before the stretch. As always with any of these big races, I felt a shot of adrenaline run through me as they turned for home. Shortly after they rounded the stretch one of the outriders tried to get Bode because he was at the pack of the pack at that point and a bit far to the outside, but as soon as she started closing in, he ducked back in with the pack forcing her to abandon her attempt. At this point my excitement was building because the horses were coming closer and I could see that War of Will (my Preakness pick) had found an opening on the rail and was bulleting through it. For the first time since I’ve ever been at a major race I got to see the horses cross the finish line right in front of me, and it was amazing as I saw War of Will clinch the win. I was absolutely ecstatic, because not only did the horse that I wanted to win win, but also because I felt like Mark Casse and the rest of War of Will’s team really deserved the victory.
However just because the race was over did not mean that the excitement had ended. Everyone was starting to celebrate and they were letting people on the track, however several of us started shouting “loose horse” over and over again because Bode still had not been caught and we could see that he was making it back around down the stretch to us again. People for some reason were not wanting to move, but eventually after a lot of shouting and security guards running at people, they thankfully moved and Bodeexpress raced past us again without him or anyone else getting hurt. Shortly after he passed us, he was finally caught and that was the end to his shenanigans. Right after this happened my phone rang, and it was my Dad calling me to have our traditional post race chat. While I was waiting for War of Will to make his way back to us my Dad and I discussed the race and then he told me what he saw and heard from the T.V. broadcast regarding Bodexpress, and he filled me in on what they were saying happened. We didn’t talk for a long time since he knew I was working, but we still had enough time to do our usual post race talk that I cherish. By the time I was getting off the phone with my Dad, Tyler Gaffalione and War of Will was making their way over to their team, so I made my way towards him and started taking pictures and just basked in their win. After they started walking him away towards the winner’s circle, my team and I left the track and headed back to our booth.
Fast forward about an hour and a half later, and before we left the track we stopped by the “Preakness” barn where there was the usual post Preakness party going on. Mike, the owner of HRRN, wanted to stop by the party and told me that I could come check it out if I wanted to, and I graciously agreed to go with him. This side of the racing industry is different than what I am used to, and I figured that this was another great opportunity to get to interact with more of the big players in the industry. Once we got there and looked around a little, we spotted Mark Casse, so we went over to congratulate him on his win. While Mike and his wife Michelle were talking to him, I went over to say hi to War of Will and attempt to get my picture with him. I spent most of my time at the party with him, just looking at him and trying to get a decent picture. About twenty minutes later we said our goodbyes and left the track, happy that we had another race behind us. Although I started off not overly excited about the Preakness, I left happy and eager for the Belmont, with the hope that War of Will would be running in the last leg of the Triple Crown.