2023 Preakness Stakes: What to Watch For

Amid the deaths and scratches that surrounded this 12 months’s Kentucky Derby, the feel-good tales in regards to the winner, Mage, had been overshadowed. But there’s loads to like in regards to the fast-developing colt as he heads into the 148th operating of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

He was solely the third horse to win the Derby with out racing as a 2-year-old and the fourth to win it with solely three earlier begins. Another horse that did each? Justify, the latest Triple Crown winner, in 2018.

Mage’s solely two losses have come towards Forte, the morning-line favourite for the Derby who was scratched the day of the race. Now Mage is the lone Derby contender within the Preakness, and his greatest foe, First Mission, was scratched on Friday.

Mage’s coach, Gustavo Delgado Sr., gained the Venezuelan Triple Crown twice earlier than coming to the United States in 2014 to set his sights on profitable America’s greatest races.

“I simply wished to get to the Kentucky Derby, and we did, however this horse, we knew he was very, superb,” mentioned Delgado Sr., who has saddled three horses within the Derby.

His son, Gustavo Delgado Jr., mentioned his father was impressed by the success of the Venezuelan connections who gained the Derby and the Preakness with Canonero II in 1971.

“He grew up in a technology the place everyone was speaking about it, and he at all times felt like he might accomplish that,” mentioned Delgado Jr., who’s his father’s assistant. “I keep in mind after I was a child, as a result of when he was profitable down in Venezuela, he would at all times inform me, ‘One day, we must always go to the States and win a type of races.’”

Mage’s jockey, Javier Castellano, and his train rider, JJ Delgado (no relation), are additionally from Venezuela. Castellano’s father and JJ Delgado used to trip for Delgado Sr. there.

Castellano mentioned he was motivated heading into the Derby when he noticed the NBC broadcast’s point out of his 0-for-15 report within the race. He has loved extra success within the Preakness, profitable in 2006 with Bernardini and in 2017 with Cloud Computing.

Another problem for the Delgados after they got here to the United States was discovering good horses and homeowners who believed in them. In Mage’s case, the Delgados teamed up with bloodstock agent Ramiro Restrepo, whose household emigrated from Colombia earlier than he was born, on the Fasig‑Tipton 2‑12 months‑previous sale in Timonium, Md. They preferred that the horse was a close to duplicate of his sire, Good Magic, who completed second within the Derby and fourth within the Preakness.

They preferred him a lot that they went over their funds, spending $290,000. So they known as up a couple of individuals to assist share the prices, together with the true property investor Sam Herzberg and the entrepreneurs Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin, whose Commonwealth app permits followers to purchase shares in racehorses for as little as $50.

And in order that melting pot of a bunch rode Mage straight into the winner’s circle on the primary Saturday in May, main to maybe the most important winner’s circle celebration in Derby historical past — even Mage seemed small in the midst of it.

About 80 of the 382 individuals who invested in Mage by means of Commonwealth had been there. One of them was Norma Barnes-Euresti from Michigan. When her wheelchair acquired caught on the observe, Gerardo Corrales and Jose Ortiz, who had simply ridden within the Derby, carried her the remainder of the way in which.

“I haven’t got legs as we speak, however I acquired the trip of a lifetime,” she mentioned on NBC, talking in regards to the jockeys’ kindness and, after all, her Triple Crown contender Mage.

After seven horses died at Churchill Downs forward of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes officers are taking a cautious method. First Mission, the 5-2 second selection within the morning line, was scratched from the race early Friday morning with an unspecified left hind-ankle damage.

The colt is skilled by Brad Cox and owned by the Godolphin steady, which belongs to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. First Mission was coming off a powerful victory within the Lexington Stakes final month at Keeneland, however his coach observed one thing was off after coaching on Wednesday, and on Friday, the veterinarian crew for 1/ST racing, which owns Pimlico Race Course, scratched the horse

Michael Banahan, Godolphin USA’s director of bloodstock, mentioned First Mission can be despatched again to Lexington, Ky., for a full examination.

“They thought perhaps it was a minor concern with the left hind ankle — you simply actually could not do correct diagnostics on website, on the observe,” Banahan mentioned. “He was doing nice at Pimlico. But that is the way in which it goes.”

The further scrutiny is being prolonged to each horse competing right here over the weekend. Officials are requiring two veterinary authorizations earlier than a horse is allowed to run — one from the coach’s non-public vet, the opposite from the regulatory vet within the state the place the horse was stabled earlier than coming to Baltimore.

The scratch of First Mission makes this the primary time since 1986 that the Preakness could have solely seven horses, which makes an already weak subject weaker. The second leg of the Triple Crown has not included just one Derby contender since 1948, when Citation ran and gained. He then prevailed within the Belmont Stakes and swept the Triple Crown.

The Hall of Fame coach Bob Baffert is returning to the Triple Crown stage after his colt Medina Spirit failed a drug check after profitable the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit was allowed to run within the Preakness however completed a well-beaten third.

Baffert has since served a suspension handed down by Kentucky regulators and a two-year ban from the Derby and Churchill Downs. Last 12 months, Baffert was serving his Kentucky suspension through the Triple Crown, so the racing commissions in Maryland and New York stored him from the Preakness and Belmont.

Now he returns with National Treasure, the fourth-place finisher within the Santa Anita Derby, to search a record-breaking eighth victory within the Preakness. He is at present tied with the Nineteenth-century coach R. Wyndham Walden.

Baffert’s first three Derby-Preakness winners — Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) — had been unable to full the Triple Crown sweep at Belmont Park. But the final two, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018, acquired the job executed.

The Hall of Famer John Velazquez will likely be aboard National Treasure, who was 3-1 within the morning line. The colt has gained solely as soon as however was aggressive within the premier races in California and Kentucky. He was third within the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to Forte.

“I believe he suits right here,” Baffert advised reporters this week. “He could have to step it up. He is a horse that has not crammed into his body but, however now we have at all times been excessive on him. He hasn’t actually run a foul race.”

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