Two days of rain had made an "off track" certain for the 74th running of Pimlico's Preakness last week. That suited Trainer Casey Hayes fine; his Hill Prince, runner-up to Middleground in the Kentucky Derby, revels in gooey going. Middleground's trainer, canny Max Hirsch, was not so happy: "My horse is very definitely suited to a fast track. I believe he can run in sticky going, but I am not sure." With an eye on the weather, Hirsch waited until the morning of the race to have his horse shod with mud caulks.
When the three-year-olds broke from the barrier, Hill Prince was the crowd's odds:on choice (7-10) to win the second event of the triple crown. Young Jockey Willie Boland took Middleground (7-2) out toward the middle of the track where the footing is often better. Hill Prince, as usual, got off slowly, with Jockey Eddie Arcaro keeping him on the rail (in the race just before the Preakness he had found the track firm there).
Trouble on the Turn. On the first turn a big lumbering colt named Balkan slithered off to his right, carrying Middleground and C. V. Whitney's Mr. Trouble outside with him. That left a hole on the rail wide enough for a cavalry charge, and Eddie Arcaro, who had not planned to go to the front so early, gave Hill Prince the gun. By the time they straightened away on the backstretch, the Prince had the race in his pocket.
Middleground made a threatening move as they rounded into the homestretch, and got within a length of the leader before Arcaro went to the whip. Hill Prince's response was decisive. He lowered his head, lengthened his stride and breezed to a five-length victory. Time for the mile and three-sixteenths on the drying-out track was a slow 1:59 1/5. Mr. Trouble, second choice in the betting, never made it the three-horse race everyone expected; he finished fourth behind his stablemate, Dooly, and 16 lengths back of the winner.
High on the Horse. For Jockey Arcaro, who could have ridden Middleground in the Derby, Hill Prince's victory was bittersweet. "It was a crime he didn't win the Derby," Arcaro said.
High as any jockey could be on his horse,* Arcaro thought the Prince might turn out to be "one of the greatest horses of our day"except for his habit of getting away slowly, "in a class with Citation." Next month's mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, third and longest race in the triple crown, would be a major test. On pedigree, Hill Prince should like the extra distance; his sire, Princequillo, did. Said Arcaro: "We should have clear sailing."
* Before the Preakness, he brushed photographers away, told them: "Don't take me nowtake me later, in the winner's circle."