By US Racing Team
For the first time in five years, there’s Triple Crown excitement heading into the 148th running of the $1.65 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.
Mage is set to become the first Kentucky Derby (G1) winner since Justify in 2018 with a chance at a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 10 should he defeat seven challengers in the Preakness.
The morning-line favorite at 4-5, Mage is displaying all the right signs in the two weeks leading up to the second leg of the Triple Crown. He arrived from Churchill Downs on Sunday and seems comfortable galloping over the Pimlico surface.
“It was the same routine since we got here. He looked better, had more energy,” Gustavo Delgado Jr., trainer Gustavo Delgado’s son and assistant, said this week after a morning gallop. “He wanted to do more.”
He did do more on Wednesday (May 17), rearing up with exercise rider J.J. Delgado aboard as they were leaving the track.
“He was showing off. He was showing off a little bit. He was just feeling good.”
He’ll get to strut his stuff under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano against seven 3-year-olds who did not run in the Derby. Mage won the Derby by one length over Two Phil’s at 15-1 odds.
The Preakness field does not seem imposing for a well-bred colt coming off a victory in America’s greatest horse race in a field of 18. While Mage has just four starts — none as a 2-year-old — his rivals in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness have combined for:
One Grade 1 winner (Blazing Sevens, Champagne)
One Grade 1 runner-up (National Treasure, American Pharoah)
One Grade 3 winner (First Mission, Lexington) was scratched.
A bunch of ungraded stakes winners: Chase the Chaos, El Camino Real Derby; Coffeewithchris, Miracle Wood; Red Route One, Bath House Row; and Perform, Federico Tesio.
Far from overwhelming.
But at least the Derby winner is running. Rich Strike, the 80-1 longshot winner in 2022, did not run.
In 2021, Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit ran third in the Preakness, but his Derby victory was in question at the time a positive race day medication violation and the colt was eventually disqualified.
In 2020, the Belmont was run first, the Derby second, and the Preakness third due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Tiz the Law won the Belmont, Authentic won the Derby, and no Triple was on the line when Authentic ran second to the filly Swiss Skydiver.
In 2019, Maximum Security was disqualified from his Derby first-place finish for interference, Country House was declared the winner, and neither ran in the Preakness.
Trainer Bob Baffert is back on the Triple Crown trail for the first time since the 2021 Preakness. The Hall of Famer sends out National Treasure as the third betting choice at 3-1.
“I think he fits here,” said Baffert, who has won the Preakness a record-tying seven times. “He will have to step it up. He is a horse that has not filled into his frame yet, but we have always been high on him. He hasn’t really run a bad race.”
The longest shot in the field is Chase the Chaos at 50-1 for trainer Ed Moger, Jr. The gelding will be ridden by Sheldon Rusell. He ran seventh and eighth in his last two races but won the El Camino Real Derby to clinch an all-fees paid berth in the Preakness.
Master Derby was the longest shot to win the Preakness, winning in 1975 edition at 23-1 odds and returning $48.80 for a $2 win bet.
“It’s just the opportunity,” Moger said. “We’ve never run a horse in a Triple Crown race, myself, or my owners. We’re excited to run. We’re a longshot, but he’s a good horse. We’ll have a chance.”
|1||National Treasure||3-1||John Velazquez||Steven M. Asmussen|
|2||Chase The Chaos||30-1||Sheldon Russell||Ed Moger Jr.|
|3||Mage||4-5||Javier Castellano||Gustavo Delgado|
|4||Coffeewithchris||20-1||Jaime Rodriguez||John E. Salzman Jr.|
|5||Red Route One||18-1||Joel Rosario||Steven M. Asmussen|
|6||Perform||12-1||Feargal Lynch||Claude R. McGaughey III|
|7||Blazing Sevens||5-1||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Chad C. Brown|
|8||First Mission||SCRATCH||Luis Saez||Brad H. Cox|
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.