BALTIMORE — The weather vane atop the infield cupola at Pimlico needed only a touch-up of paint after the 118th Preakness.
Loblolly Stable's yellow and brown colors had been painted there a year ago, minutes after Pine Bluff won the Preakness. Before 84,495 on Saturday, Loblolly's Prairie Bayou, who ran second as the Kentucky Derby favorite two weeks ago, changed leads in the stretch this time to score a half-length victory over Cherokee Run. Loblolly became the first back-to-back winner of the Preakness since Calumet Farm's Faultless and Citation in 1947-48.
Citation went on to win the Triple Crown, one of 11 horses who have managed the sweep. Sea Hero, this year's Derby winner, was foiled Saturday on his mission to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978. Ahead of only two of his 11 rivals after a half-mile, Sea Hero made only a half-hearted rally and finished fifth, more than eighth lengths behind Prairie Bayou.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Prairie Bayou won more convincingly than the margin suggests, but had a scare going down the backstretch. He narrowly avoided the path of Union City, who broke down after apparently taking a bad step with about 4 1/2 furlongs to run.
Union City, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby before running 15th in the Kentucky Derby, was given a lethal injection after suffering multiple fractures and torn tendons and ligaments in his right foreleg. Union City, trained by Wayne Lukas, is believed to be the first horse to die as the result of a Triple Crown race since Black Hills broke down and was destroyed after the 1959 Belmont Stakes.
As the result of Loblolly's Preakness double, the only change that had to be made in the infield weather vane was painting over Pine Bluff's No. 4 and replacing it with Prairie Bayou's No. 3.
"It's the goal of every owner to win a Preakness, but now that I've won it two times, I'm overwhelmed," said John Ed Anthony, president of Loblolly. "I'll be proud of this for the rest of my life. Louisville (the Derby) is in the past. Today is today and I feel great today. We didn't get the job done in Louisville, but we're going to keep trying, and we'll be back here trying to win another Preakness, too."
Prairie Bayou is only the sixth gelding to win the Preakness and the first since Holiday in 1914. The son of Little Missouri and Whiffling was gelded as a 2-year-old, before he began his racing career.
"He was heavy in the shoulders and the neck as a young horse," Anthony said. "He was out of a mare who couldn't run much, and from a stallion's first crop. We wanted to take some weight off his front end, so we gelded him."
Despite running over a fast track that had produced good times earlier in the day, Prairie Bayou ran the 1 3/16 miles in 1:56 3/5, the slowest Preakness since Forward Pass' 1:56 4/5 in 1968.
Prairie Bayou, favored again Saturday, paid $6.40 and earned $471,835 of the $725,900 purse. Prairie Bayou has 15 points to lead in the standings that determine the winner of a $1-million Triple Crown bonus. Sea Hero received 10 points for the Derby but got no points Saturday. In the final race of the series, the Belmont Stakes on June 5, points will be awarded on a 10-5-3-1 basis for the first four finishers.
Cherokee Run, who didn't run in the Derby after winning the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, took the lead with three-sixteenths of a mile to go Saturday and finished seven lengths ahead of El Bakan, who went off at 51-1. El Bakan was a neck ahead of Personal Hope, who repeated his fourth-place finish in the Derby. The rest of the order of finish was Sea Hero, Woods Of Windsor, Rockamundo, Wild Gale, Hegar, Koluctoo Jimmy Al and Too Wild.
After Prairie Bayou, running next to the fence, avoided Union City while he was in eighth place, he began passing horses. Coming out of the far turn, Prairie Bayou moved past Woods Of Windsor, and then Smith moved him through a hole that had Rockamundo on the outside.
Prairie Bayou was five wide at the top of the stretch, bearing down on Cherokee Run, with Personal Hope, the leader for a mile, beginning to fade. Prairie Bayou moved ahead with less than a sixteenth of a mile left.
"He was full of run today," Smith said. "We ducked to the inside and we were lucky to miss Union City. He switched leads (changing the lead hoof to shift weight) better today than he did in the Derby. Today he took me places where I had to be. We had to grind it out in the Derby, where he was jumping up and down and not sure of his footing."
Since a seventh-place finish in his first start last October, Prairie Bayou has been first or second in 10 starts. The Preakness was his seventh victory and increased his earnings to $1.4 million.