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Is Preakness 5.5 a bad idea?

From all the indignant commentary, not to mention YouTube hits, this past week, you would think the biggest change in this year’s Preakness Stakes is that Pimlico officials have created a half-human, half-horse mascot named Kegasus to be the race’s official infield mascot. While Kegasus has generated a lot of attention, something every bit as weird as a beer-swilling centaur could have a much larger effect on this year’s Preakness and Triple Crown chase: the “Preakness 5.5” bonus scheme, which will start generating a lot more talk if Dialed In or Soldat wins Sunday’s Florida Derby or Anthony’s Cross, Premier Pegasus, or Silver Medallion wins next Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby.

A victory by any of those five colts this week will put them two-thirds of the way toward winning a $5.5 million bonus in the Preakness under a complicated scheme announced last August by MI Developments, which owns Pimlico and the three tracks – Golden Gate, Gulfstream and Santa Anita - at which the bonus-qualifying races are held.

When MID announced the Preakness 5.5 last August, it attracted cursory attention, perhaps because it was released the Friday before the Travers and Pacific Classic, perhaps because the set-up was so convoluted. There are five paths to becoming eligible for the bonus, three in California and two in Florida: First you have to win either the El Camino Real Derby (Silver Medallion), R.B. Lewis (Anthony’s Cross), or San Felipe (Premier Pegasus) and then the Santa Anita Derby; or you have to win the Holy Bull (Dialed In) or Fountain of Youth (Soldat) and then the Florida Derby.

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