The 148th running of the Preakness Stakes is at 6:50 p.m. ET Saturday (NBC) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, and as usual, all eyes will be on Kentucky Derby winner and Triple Crown hopeful Mage.
Mage is the 8-5 favorite, and understandably so. His run in the Derby was impressive, ignoring the early speed horses — some might say struggling out of the gate — and coming from behind to close strong in a wide-open field.
But the Preakness is a different beast. The seven-horse field is a far cry from the Derby’s 18-horse run. With less crowding and more space, the Preakness is more beneficial to pure runners. Mage isn’t a big, physical horse, but as the kids say, he has that dog in him. His competitive spirit persevered with so many horses in a physical, hectic environment. Will he have the same fervor and drive in a relatively clean run with more space to roam?
Horse racing has been in a weird place the past few years. Whether because of the pandemic affecting breeding, training and preparation or because of natural variance in competition, recent seasons have been a mess, with few dominant horses and a lot of outlier results. It was just more than a year ago that Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby as an 80-1 long shot.
So as we look to this year’s Preakness, let’s perhaps not give so much weight to what might very well have been an outlier result at the Derby. Let’s instead look at whom many view as the fastest and most talented horse in the small field. At 4-1, National Treasure — ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Bob Baffert — is the third-favorite, but there is value in the number, with Mage being the known horse of the masses. The public has quite the interest in a run for the Triple Crown, so it can be easy to understand why his odds might not hold a lot of value. Plus, National Treasure reportedly will be wearing blinkers to help keep him focused.
There is some risk here, as National Treasure has only one win in five starts. And really, it’s tough to argue with anyone who says Mage is the horse to beat. But National Treasure is consistent, with a second-place finish and two thirds. With a great team behind him and a clean run from the inside position, National Treasure has the ability to take this in wire-to-wire fashion.
Preakness Stakes field
1. National Treasure (4-1)
Jockey: John Velasquez; trainer: Bob Baffert
2. Chase The Chaos (50-1)
Jockey: Sheldon Russell; trainer: Ed Moger Jr.
3. Mage (8-5)
Jockey: Javier Castellano; trainer: Gustavo Delgado
4. Coffeewithchris (20-1)
Jockey: Jamie Rodriguez; trainer: John E. Salzman Jr.
5. Red Route One (10-1)
Jockey: Joel Rosario; trainer: Steve Asmussen
6. Perform (15-1)
Jockey: Feargal Lynch; trainer: Claude “Shug” McGaughey
7. Blazing Sevens (6-1)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.; trainer: Chad Brown