Preakness Stakes storylines: All eyes on Mage's Triple Crown quest
There is little time to reflect on who won the Kentucky Derby before the second leg of the Triple Crown comes up two weeks later. It’s a little over a week when entries are drawn on Monday for the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
The obvious yet easy question to answer: Will there be a Triple Crown winner?
First of all, there is only one horse who could win the Triple Crown, Mage, winner of the Derby. Last year, there wasn’t a question to be asked as Derby winner Rich Strike didn’t even run in the Preakness. Instead, he waited for the Belmont Stakes, where he finished sixth.
Thirty-six horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, yet only 13 have gone on to win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. BetOnline, a service whose function is explained in its title, has posted odds of 6-1 that Mage will win the Triple Crown. It means bet $100 to make a profit of $600. The odds no one will win the Triple Crown are 1-10.
So, the odds are slightly better than the classic line in the movie Dumb and Dumber, “So, you’re telling me there is a chance?”
Everyone says the most difficult of the three races to win is the Kentucky Derby. And without that win, there is no Triple Crown discussion. The Preakness is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter and the field is much smaller. Despite legend, the turns are not tighter at Pimlico. Horses that are in top form should still have that form two weeks later.
This will be the top storyline on everyone’s mind leading up to the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Here are some other questions that will likely be asked.
How many Kentucky Derby horses will run?
The field for the Preakness will not be set until Monday, but it looks as if only two horses that ran in the Derby will do the short turnaround. There is Mage, winner of the race, and Disarm, who finished fourth.
Two of the horses have been gifted in by winning major races at other tracks owned by the Stronach Group. Chase the Chaos qualified by winning the El Camino Real at Golden Gate but then followed it up by placing seventh in the San Felipe Stakes and eighth in the California Derby. Perform won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park about a month ago. Each qualifying race has had one Preakness winner. Rombauer won both races two years ago and Deputed Testimony did the same in 1983.
Blazing Sevens (third in the Blue Grass), First Mission (won the Lexington), National Treasure (fourth in Santa Anita Derby), Coffeewithchris (fifth in Federico Tesio) and Red Route One (won Bath House Row Stakes at Oaklawn) are also well rested, having not raced in the Kentucky Derby.
Will Bob Baffert return to the Triple Crown races?
This will be Bob Baffert’s first return to a Triple Crown race in two years. He did run Medina Spirit in the Preakness two years ago, but he didn’t attend to avoid being a distraction. The sport’s only active two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned race-day medication. The Preakness let him run a horse that year, and New York suspended the trainer after it was clear he wouldn’t have an entry in the Belmont Stakes.
Last year, he was serving a 90-day suspension during the Triple Crown weeks for Medina Spirit’s failed test. He continues to litigate the disqualification and suspension, even though he’s served it. He’ll be bringing National Treasure to the Preakness, who has been running high quality races but hasn’t won since his maiden start.
Will horse deaths still be an issue?
It will always be an issue as no track is immune to the most disturbing part of the sport. If the seven horses that died at Churchill Downs in the lead-up to the Derby had happened during a different time of year, it would not have been a national issue. Kentucky has no transparency when it comes to horse fatalities, unlike California and New York, who make deaths public on websites. Churchill Downs won’t allow the Equine Injury Database (EID) to make its racing death statistics public.
Maryland has not been immune to deaths this year. Pimlico’s sister track, Laurel Park, closed for a few days to inspect the track after five horses had been euthanized. As is usually the case, no cause was found. Laurel reopened and racing has moved to Pimlico, which only has 15 racing days this year, sandwiched around the Preakness. According to the EID, which doesn’t include training deaths or non-racing accidents in its survey, Pimlico had one racing death in 21 days of racing last year.
Is there an under-the-radar horse?
With only 10 or fewer horses in the race, everyone will get a look. The Steve Asmussen-trained Disarm finished a good-looking fourth in the Kentucky Derby. And you’ve got to take any Baffert-trained horse seriously, so National Treasure deserves attention. Baffert has won the Preakness seven times, so he knows the way to the Winner’s Circle.
Do consider this: Trainer Chad Brown is bringing Blazing Sevens after skipping the Kentucky Derby. Brown won the race last year with Early Voting and in 2017 with Cloud Computing after neither ran in the Derby. The formula seems to be working. “[Blazing Sevens] is coming into the race fresh,” Brown told the Preakness media office. “He is coming in with a full tank of gas. Off his most recent work I see him moving forward off the Blue Grass [where he finished third]. The horse is as good as I have ever seen him.” Plus, he gets the services of Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Remember, take any betting tip for entertainment purposes only.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.