Whereas the Kentucky Derby was standing-room-only with a full starting gate, the Preakness field contains only eight. That’s somewhat disappointing for bettors, but good news for Derby winner Mage, who surprisingly is the lone Derby starter in the Preakness field.
If Mage wins the Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday, thoroughbred racing will have its first shot at a Triple Crown since 2018, when Justify went on to win the Belmont Stakes, the 13th horse to sweep all three races.
Mage won the Kentucky Derby at a generous 15-1, but will go off the betting favorite on Saturday. Though he’s 8-5 on the morning line — and likely to be sent off even lower — the Preakness field is not without a few other contenders.
Here is a closer look at the second jewel of the 2023 Triple Crown, with horse racing betting, race facts, analysis and selections.
A win, a second and two thirds in five lifetime starts. Fourth in Santa Anita Derby and third to Forte in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Why he can win: Back in the barn of trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Preakness seven times. Will be forwardly placed, possibly on the lead.
Why he can’t: Four-race losing streak since winning his debut last September. Mild or no closing kick in all of his most recent starts.
2. Chase the Chaos (50-1)
Earned automatic entry into Preakness with victory in El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields three months ago.
Why he can win: His three career victories is tied for most in the field.
Why he can’t: El Camino Real Derby was run on synthetic surface. Finished eighth and seventh in his two races since then. Speed figures are slower than rest of the field.
3. Mage (8-5)
Rallied from 13 lengths back to win Kentucky Derby in only fourth career start. Second in Florida Derby.
Why he can win: Faces a far easier field in the Preakness than in the Derby. Speed figures are fastest in the field. Derby winners tend to perform well in Preakness.
Why he can’t: Off slowly in past three races. Benefited from hot early pace in Derby; Preakness pace likely to be more modest.
4. Coffeewithchris (20-1)
Most experienced horse in field with 12 starts. Has three wins, three seconds, two thirds.
Why he can win: Local horse should feel at home in Maryland. Overachiever. Purchased for $2,000, has amassed more than $225,000 in earnings.
Why he can’t: Hasn’t competed in a graded stakes race before. Distance a huge question — yet to win a race longer than one mile.
5. Red Route One (10-1)
Two wins, two seconds, one third in nine starts. No early speed, typically loses contact with field until late.
Why he can win: If there’s an unexpected speed dual up front, his chances improve significantly.
Why he can’t: Needs a fast pace. Even if he gets one, may still need to run a career-best to win.
6. Perform (15-1)
Two wins, one second, one third in seven starts. Won Federico Tesio Stakes, the local Preakness prep.
Why he can win: Won Tesio Stakes despite difficult start and traffic-filled stretch run. Trainer Shug McGaughey a Hall of Famer.
Why he can’t: Lost first five career races. Stepping up in class. Speed figures are slower than several others in the field.
7. Blazing Sevens (6-1)
Two wins, two thirds in six starts. Won Grade I Champagne Stakes last year on sloppy track.
Why he can win: Only Grade I winner in field, other than Mage. Trainer Chad Brown won Preakness last year with Early Voting after skipping Derby. Similar strategy here.
Why he can’t: Ran faster last year as a 2-year-old. Non-threatening third in Blue Grass Stakes last time out. Top two Blue Grass finishers were well-beaten in Derby.
8. First Mission (5-2)
Most lightly-raced horse in field with two wins and a second in three starts.
Why he can win: Solid speed figure in winning Lexington Stakes at Keeneland last month. Trainer Brad Cox dominated Derby prep scene.
Why he can’t: Takes another step up in class. Preakness distance is a furlong longer than he has run before.
From a betting standpoint, it’s hard to accept even money or so on Mage after he won the Derby at 15-1 two weeks ago. So you consider alternatives … but sometimes can’t find one.
1. Mage is the most likely winner in a Preakness field that didn’t come up all that strong. With other connections opting not to run back in two weeks, this is the first Preakness since 1969 with only one Kentucky Derby runner. Mage has the top speed figures in the field. If he breaks clean and runs close to his Derby effort, his Triple Crown hopes will remain alive. But he comes with a short price.
2. Of the seven new shooters, Perform seems the most likely to outrun his odds. After starting his career 0-for-5 at shorter distances, Perform is 2-for-2 in races around two turns, including winning the Tesio Stakes at Laurel last month with an impressive late-closing kick. He will have to take another big step forward, but can spice up the exacta at double-digit odds.
3. First Mission is the most logical alternative to Mage. The later-developing, lightly-raced colt rallied up the rail to win the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland last time out and earned a solid speed figure. He was never on the Derby trail and hasn’t done much wrong. But he’s stepping up in class here and his 5-2 morning line doesn’t seem like much of a bargain.
Of the others, Red Route One is worth considering on the bottom of exotic tickets. He will be passing horses late.
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