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Horse racing-Improbable tops Preakness field missing Triple Crown drama

Favored Improbable will seek to give trainer Bob Baffert a record eighth Preakness Stakes victory on Saturday in a race void of Triple Crown excitement.

May 17 (Reuters) - Favored Improbable will seek to give trainer Bob Baffert a record eighth Preakness Stakes victory on Saturday in a race void of Triple Crown excitement.

Neither Kentucky Derby winner Country House nor Maximum Security, who was disqualified after crossing the finish line first at Churchill Downs, will be running at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course.

But there could be history of a different kind made in the wide open thoroughbred race.

Former schoolteacher Kelly Rubley would become the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race should Alwaysmining claim the victory.

"That's not my driving force," Rubley told the Baltimore Sun. "But it would be very exciting."

The Maryland-bred horse ranks fourth in late odds after winning six consecutive races at Laurel Park.

At the top of the list is Improbable, the fourth place Derby finisher who heads the Preakness's 13-horse field that includes nine entries who did not run in the Derby.

A victory would enable Baffert to break a tie with Robert Wyndham Walden for the most Preakness wins. Walden won the race seven times between 1875 and 1888.

Ironically, Improbable is winless in three starts this year but was undefeated as a two-year-old.

“I feel like we’re favored by default this year,” Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, which co-owns Improbable, told The New York Times. “But this horse has a good resume. He ran very well in the Derby without hitting the board."

Second choice War of Will did run in Kentucky, becoming entangled with the disqualified Maximum Security and being placed seventh.

Maximum Security's owners on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to reverse the Derby outcome.

Anothertwistafate also is among the favorites along with Alwaysmining. Neither ran in the Derby.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

((Gene.Cherry@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 894 2254;; Reuters Messaging: gene.cherry.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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