I’m reading an interesting book by Mark Shrager titled The Great Sweepstakes of 1877. It details a race at Pimlico in the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction between Ten Broeck, the pride of Kentucky and the South, and two top northern horses named Tom Ochiltree and Parole.
It was an event that symbolized the time in so many ways, with much of the nation hanging on the outcome.
So as everything was unfolding at Saratoga on Saturday, with two incredibly talented 3-year-olds in Gamine and Tiz the Law dominating the Test and Travers stakes in rapid succession, it didn’t take long to start thinking about Pimlico.
Let’s say things go as planned at Churchill Downs next month, with Gamine, having won her last two starts by a combined 25 ¾ lengths, emerging in the Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4, and Tiz the Law, winner of four straight this year, including the first leg of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, taking the Kentucky Derby a day later.
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A meeting between the two at Pimlico in the Preakness on Oct. 3, some 143 years after The Great Sweepstakes, would be the showdown racing needs now more than ever.
There would be a Triple Crown hanging in the balance for Tiz the Law, and a Battle of the Sexes, with Gamine as the spoiler. And with the COVID-19 pandemic making team sports look increasingly problematic, the Preakness figures to have a prominent place on the national stage.
I know. One race at a time. A lot has to happen for that to even be considered. But it's sure nice to dream about the possibilities.
If you’re looking for a moment that could transcend sports, this would be it. The two will have been at the same track for three straight starts, running in different races. Getting them together for what could turn into a match race at Pimlico, with immortality on the line, is more than anyone could possibly ask for in a year when the Triple Crown is spread out over 3 ½ months due to the coronavirus.
The elongated Triple Crown cost racing that five-week stretch when it has the nation’s attention, with excitement building from one race to the next. Ratings for the Belmont Stakes were the smallest since 1993, down 35 percent from a year earlier.
It also makes sense. There’s no other major race for Gamine between the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeders’ Cup. And in the aftermath of Gamine’s 18 ¾ length win in the Acorn on the Belmont Stakes undercard, trainer Bob Baffert mentioned the Preakness as a possible spot to take on the boys.
Gamine has never been headed in four career starts, although she was disqualified after winning a May 2 allowance race at Oaklawn Park for a post-race positive drug test for the local anesthetic lidocaine. Baffert is appealing the disqualification and the 15-day suspension he was handed.
In that allowance race, Gamine’s only trip around two turns, she beat Speech, who came back to win the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. Her time of 1:41.91 for the 1 1/16 miles was better than one posted by Kentucky Derby contender Swiss Skydiver, who ran 1:42.0 in winning the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes.
Tiz the Law’s four races this year, including three straight Grade 1 wins, have been by a combined 16 ½ lengths, using a stunning turn of foot to accelerate away from his challengers in each.
For now, it’s on to Churchill Downs for the Labor Day weekend festivities. But it’s hard not to dream of a matchup that would be as anticipated as any in recent memory.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Tiz the Law, Gamine clash in Preakness could be showdown for the ages