BALTIMORE (AP) — Bob Baffert wore a look of concern as he patrolled the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course, some nine hours before the start of the Preakness.

Baffert usually exudes confidence on race day, and in most cases it’s justified. Of the 11 previous times he had a horse in the Preakness, the Hall of Fame trainer had five winners, including Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky last year.

His entrant Saturday was Midnight Interlude, who was never a factor in the Kentucky Derby and finished 16th.

“I just can’t get over his race in the Derby,” Baffert said. “I was really puzzled by that performance.”

Speaking under a clear blue sky, Baffert took off his sunglasses and spoke candidly about his horse’s chances in the Preakness.

“I have a different feeling this time. I’ve never come in here with a horse that ran poorly in the Derby,” Baffert said. “Usually my horses, like Point Given and Lookin At Lucky, were basically the favorites going into the Derby and they just had bad trips. This horse, however, doesn’t have the credentials of those horses.

“So it’s a different kind of feeling. I’m being more hopeful than anything else,” Baffert said. “I think he’ll run much better
this time.”

It would difficult for Midnight Interlude to do much worse than he did in the Derby.

“I’m confident that he’ll run a good race, but will it be good enough? I don’t know,” Baffert said. “I come to compete and try
to win. The way this horse is, lightly raced, I thought he could win one of the classics. I don’t know which one. If there’s one, I think maybe this one.”

The result of the race likely will determine the horse’s future on the track.

“If he doesn’t run well today, then he’s probably a grass horse,” Baffert said. “He’s bred for the grass; maybe that’s what
it is.”
LATE ARRIVAL: Animal Kingdom arrived at Pimlico shortly before 7 a.m. and quickly made himself at home in Stall 40, the traditional home of the Kentucky Derby winner.

Trainer Graham Motion opted to keep the bay colt 60 miles away at Fair Hill Training Center until the day of the race.
Motion brought seven horses to compete in various races on Saturday’s card.

Two other Preakness starters arrived early Saturday. Norman Asbjornson and Concealed Identity, who were based at nearby Bowie Training Center, made the 50-minute ride in separate vans and checked in before 6 a.m.
IN THE STARS?: After Astrology became ill a few months ago, all signs pointed to an altered schedule that didn’t include the Kentucky Derby.

“It was the equivalent of the flu in a human being,” owner George Bolton said. “He was sick and we lost a month due to it. So
we had to kind of backtrack.” Which led the son of A.P. Indy to the Preakness.

“He had had five starts, so no one panicked about being kind of behind the eight-ball. But then it looked like he wasn’t going to get the number of starts he needed to go to Churchill Downs,” Bolton said. “So it was a fairly easy decision to skip (the Derby) with the Preakness as the goal.”

Astrology was a 15-1 long shot on the morning line, in part because he ran only twice since November. He was second in the Sunland Derby and the Jerome.

Bolton doesn’t perceive the Preakness to be any less prestigious than the Derby.

“This is a fun race. A lot of great horses, a lot of great stallions win this race,” Bolton said. “It’s easily got the
prestige, in terms of that, that the Derby does.”
VOLLEYBALL STARTUP: The National Volleyball League launched its first season in the Preakness infield.

Competing on 80 tons of sand in the middle of thousands of beer drinkers, the athletes were all business in their effort to earn a chunk of the $75,000 top prize.

“This will be a great opportunity for the fans to see world class athletes both on the track and on the infield,” said Don
Abramson, vice president of development for Corrigan Sports.

After Baltimore, the NVL tour continues July 22-24 at the Malibu Surf and Sports Festival in California.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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