As we await the draw, I figured I’d post Benny Southstreet’s Pimlico trip notes. You can skip right to those, or you can read this account of the time Benny and I attended the Preakness together.
There are many things that we know about Benny Southstreet. There’s the well-documented snake obsession. There’s his love of tomato-based stews. There’s his love of getting into fights with jockeys on Twitter. And, of course, he’s one of the sharper trip notes writers around.
Here’s something you don’t know about Benny. I know you’re not going to believe me when I tell you this but it’s the absolute truth: Benny invented the infamous running of the toilets on the infield at Pimlico. I know because I was there.
It was the summer after we met in Saratoga. We met up on a sunny day at Old Hilltop. I think I was doing press for Six Secrets of Successful Bettors. I had a table up in the dining room. Benny somehow found himself on the infield. I say “somehow” but that’s a lie – I know exactly how. I got him great clubhouse seats that day. Benny had a bet back in the second race and put 50 percent of his money in the double. His horses ran 2-3-4. He took the remaining 50 percent of his money and bet the betback – entirely on the nose. After another horror trip, he ran second. Benny was busted.
Industrious fellow that he is, he convinced his then girlfriend (I think they lasted about six hours after this story happened) that the Clubhouse seats were boring and bad luck and that at the Preakness all the real fun happened on the infield. If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty attuned to the ways of horseplayers and have figured out where this story is going. It was early in the day, there aren’t a lot of good seats at Pimlico, and Benny realized he could sell the duckets to late comers and therefore be able to bet the rest of the card – albeit from the chaos of the infield.
He had a couple of winners after that. But by the time I got out there to visit him, things were starting to get ugly. Benny had decided to pick a fight with a trio of Baltimore Orioles fans. He started by mocking Jim Palmer and how proud he was of being photographed in his underwear. He claimed that Andy Etchebarren was the ugliest man to ever play professional sports in America. Then he called Eddie Murray a sourpuss. When he got to his theory about Brady Anderson managed to hit 50 homeruns that one year, his physical space was being invaded by three guys who had an unusual way of pronouncing the letter “o.”
I tried to intercede – I figured we could all bond over Brooks Robinson, whose glove I knew Benny, a third-baseman himself, owned. But this time Benny actually managed to save himself. We were just 20 yards or so from the infamous port-o-potties where the running of the toilets takes place. And Benny calmly suggested, “Hey, I wonder if anybody ever got up there and ran across those toilets?”
Huey, Duey, and Luey quickly lost interest in us and, likes moths to flame, were drawn to the challenge. Five minutes later, they were running across the loos, and Benny and I are were running to the windows to bet it all on Afleet Alex. And wouldn’t you know, Benny’s bad luck almost got him beat too. Take it away, Benny!
4-20-19: Away fine. Clean. Held up early and into a stalking position through the first turn. Eased from the 2 path in the first turn to a clear stalk in 3rd down the backstretch – now 3-4 wide. Nibbling and up to the leaders early in the far turn and right on by. A healthy ask at the ¼ pole and lights out. Professional lead switch and action.
4-13-19: Away fine. Clean. Nibbled for speed early. A snug hold throughout the 1st turn while behind top two. Down the backstretch this one was in a very good spot – then entering the far turn the good spot turned into a bad one when two foes (one on the inside and one on the outside) made an early move and put him in between horses. Despite being in between, he seemed comfortable – and by late in the far turn was asked and pushed out of that spot and into a clear shot at the fence. At rail from this point to the wire while under an all out shove. Earned place money but leader was running away from this one and the trip was also very good overall.
3-24-19: Away fine. Clean. Nibbling early for position. In between entering the first turn. Three wide foe committed to lead out of the ;first turn and onto the backstretch. Rider made a good decision to cede his position and take a view from the rail, right behind top 2. Pace was normal and top six foes quite compact. The foe on this one’s outside made a move for the lead early in the far turn – and then another moved right behind that one, causing ‘Fate’ to stay on hold for a bit longer than he’d have liked. Saved ground through the far turn and began easing his way around a tiring leader late in the turn. A clear shot the last 3/16 and was running well late. Good run but also had a very, very good trip.
5-4-19: Broke well & clean. Asked for speed early & was quick with a clear run down the stretch. Entering the 1st turn was stuck 3 wide on what was a short lived 3 prong duel. Pace slowed and an early accordion flow out of the first turn. This one was in a good enough spot with open air & clear sailing down backstretch, which was relaxed. Entering the far turn this one was ever so slightly starting to lose ground and then Country House moved right past Bode, and almost simultaneously, the foul happened. This was when he checked right out of the race. He zigzagged home while not being abused. In my opinion, this one was being outrun by Country House when the foul occurred.
3-30-19: Away well & clean. Not really asked to do so but showed good speed into first turn, earning a clear stalking position to Maximum Security. On hold in great spot and stalking leader throughout. Dawdle, dawdle, dawdle. Early in the far turn the pace started to heat up and acceleration from everyone began. The leader started to pull away easily and this one was all in by midway in the far turn. Sprinted from here to the wire well enough, but he also should have. This was a very good trip.
3-30-19: (had lost weight since his previous race) Away average. Clean. Allowed to settle early but immediately found himself behind a wall of three foes into and through the first turn as pace was a dawdle. Field was very compact and was regulated to a ‘sit and hope position.’ Began moving a bit entering the far turn, easing 3-4-5 wide. Hand shoving through the turn and all out drive through the lane, which was a bit green. Overall this was a good race in which he realistically had no chance given the pace and ground loss. Would expect a move up after this.
5-4-19: Away fine. Clean. Uneventful run down the stretch the first go ‘round. Headed into first turn was just 2 wide and in a good spot. Open air all around. An early accordion flow out of the first turn and field suddenly becoming quite compact. Uneventful backstretch & maintained a professional gate despite the sloppy throwback. Very nice job by jock nibbling a bit to maintain an in between spot entering the turn but wall in front and on hold for a bit. Without having to earn a good spot, this one was given a clear shot from late in the turn home and made no impression. Overall I’d have to classify this as a very good trip.
4-13-19: Away fine. Clean. At rail and looking to push his way out to spy on Omaha Beach but didn’t make it and opted to stay at rail. Good spot throughout the first turn – all by himself. Leaving the first turn this one’s gate changed – began climbing a bit and did so for a good chunk of the backstretch until the rider moved on him and he began making up ground while now 4 wide. Once he got close enough to the leaders his gate changed back to a fluid stride. This one might not like off going. Entering the turn within just one length from the lead, the attack began. Nibbled and hand urged to pick up the leader, the top 2 began a gradual quickening and then an all out sprint for home. Couldn’t get to leader (& eventual winner) but was not disgraced as top 2 were clearly the best of this bunch.
5-4-19: Away fine. Clean. Didn’t find the best spot entering the first turn – was 3-4 wide and in between for most of the turn. In the clear down the backstretch while 4-5 path. Open air in front and quick enough pace – this was a good spot. Allowed to find rhythm. Some nibbles entering the far turn and nice response – beginning to pick some runners off while wide. Moved 3-4-3 wide through the turn and a clear shot at the top 3 in the lane. Grinding stretch just tagging the leader nearing the finish.
4-13-19: Away fine. Clean. No speed early and relegated to last. 3-2 path in first turn. Getting some mild encouragement early on the backstretch. In between entering the far turn and earning some positions while be nudged along. Saved good ground through the far turn and a pretty clear shot the whole way. Fought hard for 3rd money but was outrun for that spot the last 1/16 by Country House.
4-6-19: Very slight stumble from the gate but didn’t hurt. To the lead early. Stuck 3 wide entering the first turn and 3 wide throughout turn – not a big deal given that several got stacked very wide early. Good spot down the backstretch and earned a joint tracking position of dueling leaders late on the backstretch. Nibbling entering the far turn and then all out shove – but had nothing to offer and began the backup while under whip urging.
4-13-19: Away average. Clean. On hold early. 4 wide throughout the 1st turn. Plenty of open air down the backstretch – about 3 lengths. Mild nibbling into far turn and immediate improvement. Parked through the turn while 5 wide throughout and a very, very impressive move gliding past everyone and sustaining the bid all the way to the wire. This was a very, very impressive run while crushing ‘Fate’ and also having a nice view of the parking lot in the turn. Not sure what happened here but this was a massive change in form. Wow.
2-16-19: Away OK. Clean. Decent spot early while 3 wide through first turn. Some intermittent nibbling late in the first turn – kind of strange. Can’t help but wonder if he was being bothered by some kickback b.c immediately entering the backstretch he moved very wide (to the 6 or 7 path) for a clear run with no foes in front. Was about 5 wide through the far turn and going nowhere. Some token riding through the lane with spotty whip urging.
4-6-19: Away fine. Clean. Hard ask for speed early. Found a great spot through the 1st turn, saving ground through the entire turn (while some were stuck several wide) and a great loose pocket spot. Maintained a great spot for entire backstretch. Entering the far turn this one was going better then Market King and began easing out to have a clear shot of the top two which were now hooked and both trying to earn a clear lead. Success in earning that tracking spot. Hard ask late in the turn and to the rail in the lane. This was a very, very, very good trip.
War of Will
5-4-19: Broke well. Clean. Some real urging to get away from the stalls early, I assume to avoid what can be a race to the fence during the cavalry charge down the stretch the 1st time ‘round. About a dozen or so pumps from Tyler right out of the gate. Entering the first turn found a very good spot, saving ground with the top runners 2-3 lengths clear of this one. But if the first 3/8 for ‘Will’ was good, the remainder of the race was bad. Leaving the first turn the pace had already begun to do a 180. When the accordion flow arrived, Will had to tap on the breaks & Tyler found himself water skiing a bit. For pretty much the entire backstretch, Will was a touch keen – not the most ideal in any race – but going 10 furlongs – this was gas that he couldn’t afford to be burning. Remained in this box until midway in the far turn when he eased off of the rail to go around Maximum Security. Was running well. When ¾ of a length behind leader & moving for the lead, this one was impeded by the lugging leader and was now 1 ½ lengths behind and asked hard to stop the backward momentum. Immediately recovered and spurted up to the leader again. This was a huge loss on the gas tank needle and was also in a far less enviable position, having to battle between Maximum Security and Country House. Fought hard through the lane. With confidence likely waning, gradually gave way and passed by a few foes very late when Tyler finally conceded and offered him his lungs back. This was not a good trip and a gallant effort.
3-23-19: Apparently injured in this race leaving the gate. Notes not applicable and drawing a line through this one.
2-16-19: Away fine. Clean. Slight nibbling early to show speed from wide draw. Success. Found himself in an in between position on 3 across duel entering the first turn. Brilliant ride through this turn. Jock moved away from rail dueler to get his horse to relax and now 3 wide dueler had to choose to quicken & make the top, get stuck 3-4 wide through turn while maintaining a duel – or take back. He opted for the top and took off. This one simply relaxed and let him go. When the flow changed, the rail dueler also took back and this one found a perfect stalking position in the center of the track while on hold and running strong. Easily picked up the leader through the far turn and no real ask until the top of the stretch. Opened up and maintained lead through the lane, although a very green Country House was ridden by Luiz Saez (you just can’t make this up) was not losing ground to him while running sideways through most of the stretch drive.
Win Win Win
5-4-19: Away just average. Clean. Permitted to just lope along early. Slightest of pauses while entering an in between position and found his way to the rail entering the first turn. From rail to about the 3 path throughout the first turn. Pace slowed noticeably. Had two choices – move early down the backstretch while wide (like Game Winner) or wait and shave. Opted for the latter. Cantered for the entire backstretch while in behind and searching. Entering the far turn there was a brief moment when an in between position showed face and Julian nibbled to get into the hole – but he didn’t quicken as he should have and his hopes were pretty much gone at that point. Coasted through the far turn while easing closer to the rail while 4-3-2 wide. Asked early in the stretch but no real offering – and when Master Fencer brushed with this one while absolutely blowing by him, the rider conceded the last sixteenth with token riding and a couple of non-threatening left handers.
4-6-19: Away OK and slightly tight from the gate. Not a big deal as he has no speed. Allowed to settle near the back and at rail through the first turn. Pace wasn’t fast with speed dominating the race. 1-2-3-4 early finished 4th, 1st, 3rd, OUT. Leaving the first turn this one stayed at rail and maintained rail entire backstretch. Eased to 2 path entering the far turn and began passing foes. Just past the midway point of the far turn he ran up on horses’ heels and was stymied while trying to push through a tight spot. Hard ask to try the same spot again (this time with much more room) and began gaining momentum for a second go while 4-5 wide through latter stages of turn. Fought hard through the lane and professional stretch run to claim second. This was a good run and not the best of trips considering the flow, trouble and ground loss.
4-12-19: Away well. Clean. Asked for speed early and to the lead and rail entering the first turn. Clear and uncontested through the first turn. On hold entering backstretch. Pace seemed moderate. Let out a notch or 2 entering the far turn and really took off, putting 5-6 on the filed. All out in lane, eventually being geared down inside the 1/16 pole. Huge run after what was a very good lone speed trip.