Additional betting analysis provided by Anita Marks. File has been updated to account for news of No. 8 horse First Mission.
The 148th running of the Preakness Stakes doesn’t promise nearly as much drama as the Kentucky Derby did two weeks ago.
This year’s Kentucky Derby featured five scratches, the most since 1936, including morning line favorite Forte, who was ruled out of the race by state veterinarians on the morning of the race because of a foot bruise. So far, one horse has been scratched from the original eight-horse field, as 8, First Mission (5-2) was withdrawn on Friday morning.
Forte is ineligible for the Preakness because of a mandatory two-week stint on the veterinarian’s list. Kentucky Derby winner Mage is the only horse to compete in that race and move on to Preakness, where he will face seven contenders in the Grade I race, which will go off on Saturday at 7:01 p.m. ET.
How to watch the Preakness
It is the 13th of 14 races scheduled at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Coverage will begin on CBNC from 1-4:30 p.m. ET and on NBC from 4:30-7:30 p.m. ET. It will stream live on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
A possibility for a Triple Crown
The Preakness Stakes is often considered the forgotten leg of the Triple Crown. It doesn’t have the anticipation of the Kentucky Derby or the potential ramifications of the Belmont Stakes, and trainers of Kentucky Derby horses often choose to skip it to aim for the Belmont in June.
That’s particularly evident when there’s no Kentucky Derby winner in the race. That was the case last year, when the connections of Rich Strike, the 80-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby, elected for him to skip the race.
It also happened in 2019, when long shot Country House, who placed first in the Kentucky Derby because of Maximum Security’s disqualification, was withdrawn from the Preakness due to illness.
There also was no Triple Crown possibility in 2020, when the Preakness was run last of the Triple Crown races because of COVID-19 rescheduling.
Although most of the contenders are new shooters, Mage’s appearance should bring some excitement to the race by giving fans hope for a Triple Crown attempt, which only increase with First Mission’s withdrawal.
Bob Baffert is back
There will be one familiar face in Maryland outside of Mage and his connections.
Trainer Bob Baffert will run a horse in a Triple Crown race for the first time since the 2021 Preakness. Baffert’s seven Preakness wins are tied for most by a trainer in the race’s history.
The two-time Triple Crown winning trainer will be aiming for his eighth Preakness win with National Treasure, who has only one lifetime win but has finished among the top three horses in three stakes races.
Baffert has not been allowed to run in a Triple Crown race since the late Medina Spirit finished third in the 2021 Preakness. The 2021 Kentucky Derby winner tested positive for betamethasone, a substance banned on race day, leading to a disqualification and a two-year ban for Baffert at all Churchill Downs Inc.-owned racetracks. Baffert was also banned from running at Belmont Park or any New York Racing Association tracks for a year, although that ban was reversed in court after the 2021 Belmont Stakes.
The spotlight will be on Baffert after weeks of scrutiny surrounding the sport. Eight horses died at Churchill Downs in the week leading up to and after the Kentucky Derby, one of whom was prepping to run in the race. Two of those horses belonged to trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who received an indefinite ban from Churchill Downs and had Lord Miles scratched from the Kentucky Derby.
Morning line odds shown. click here for the latest odds
3. Mage (8-5)
Trainer — Delgado Gustavo; Jockey — Javier Castellano; Record – 4:2-1-0
Mage, a lightly raced colt who went off at 15-1 in the Kentucky Derby, was able to close from the back of the pack in that race after the leaders tired.
Mage’s connections will likely be hoping for another fast pace, but he’s not a stone-cold closer who has to be in the back. He has come off slow in his past two races and ended up in that position, but that wasn’t the case in his first two starts. Expect him to be closer to the front but not in the lead.
While Mage certainly ran an impressive Derby, he’ll be coming off less rest than any horse in the race, which is something to consider when making bets.
1. National Treasure (4-1)
Trainer — Bob Baffert; Jockey — John Velazquez; Record — 5:1-1-2
The Baffert trainee had been a Triple Crown contender since he sold for $500,000 as a yearling in 2021. National Treasure was transferred to Baffert’s former assistant Tim Yakteen for the Santa Anita Derby because of Baffert’s ban from accumulating points to get into the Kentucky Derby, but is running for Baffert again for the Preakness.
A fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby didn’t earn enough points for entry into the Kentucky Derby, but he should have a good shot to win this race if he can get an early lead. He’ll likely try to do that from the rail.
National Treasure has had issues with focus, which is likely why blinkers are being put back on for this race. It’s a tossup as to whether he has matured enough that it’ll do the trick.
7. Blazing Sevens (6-1)
Trainer — Chad Brown; Jockey — Irad Ortiz Jr.; Record — 6:2-0-2
Chad Brown has been successful with new faces in the Preakness, winning the 2017 race with 13-1 shot Cloud Computing and last year’s race with Early Voting. Both were late bloomers who didn’t do much as 2-year-olds.
Blazing Sevens won the Champagne Stakes last fall and recently finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes, although neither winner Tapit Trice nor second-place finisher Verifying did much in the Derby.
The long shot
6. Perform (15-1)
Trainer — Shug McGaughey; Jockey — Feargal Lynch; Record: 7:2-1-1
Don’t underestimate the outside factors with this colt. He’s trained by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who doesn’t enter Triple Crown races unless he thinks he has a real shot. Perform’s connections also paid a $150,000 supplemental entry free to run in this race because he was not originally nominated to the Triple Crown.
The ownership group chose to pay the fee after his performance in the Federico Tesio Stakes, when he won by a head as a 10-1 long shot despite stumbling out of the gate and being cut off late into the race.
2. Chase The Chaos (50-1) — Jockey: Sheldon Russell
4. CoffeewithChris (20-1) — Jockey: Jamie Rodriguez
5. Red Route One (10-1) — Jockey: Joel Rosario
The scratch of First Mission brings the field size down to seven horses, which makes the betting options pretty limited. It also bumps up Mage’s chances of taking the Preakness while giving him even less value to handicappers than before. Handicappers that like Mage can try to single him in horizontal bets like Pick 3s and Pick 4s, which means selecting the winners of multiple races. We won’t get into those bets here, and instead will focus exclusively on this race while trying to beat Mage.
Exotic bets (such as exactas and trifectas) also provide better value than a straight win bet on Mage would. National Treasure won’t offer as big of a payout as he might have with First Mission in the field, but getting anywhere near his 4-1 morning line odds wouldn’t be too bad. He has the ability to stalk or set the pace, and Baffert can’t be counted out of these races, even after his hiatus. He could certainly position himself nicely to have a chance to win.
We won’t do too many combinations here because of the small field. Box National Treasure with Blazing Sevens, meaning the bet will cash if either horse wins. A $2 exacta box would cost $4 for this bet. In trifectas, put National Treasure on top, over Blazing Seconds in second, then Red Route One, Perform and Mage to come in third. Betting a $2 trifecta this way would cost $6 with the addition of the extra horses. Ideally Mage would not hit the board in this situation because his odds would offer a small payout, but he would also have to run a very poor race, so whether he should be included or not at the bottom of exotic bets depends on the handicapper’s conviction against him.
With that strategy in mind, here is a sampling of bets you could make if you like National Treasure and want to avoid the favored Mage.
Win: National Treasure
Exacta box: National Treasure, Blazing Sevens
Trifecta: National Treasure to come in first, Blazing Sevens to place and one of Red Route One, Perform or Magic to show.
Anita Marks’ bets
With only seven horses in the field, I’ll set up a trifecta with a few likely outcomes to maximize my chances to win. Here are the three horses I will be using to win or place in my trifecta.
3. Mage (8-5) The favorite and rightfully so — considering he won the Derby. Owner Gustavo Delgado felt Mage has responded well from the Derby and can make a go at it in Charm City. We saw in the Derby that this horse has a good mind, and push-button speed. He will want a fast pace to win. Javier Castellano will be his jockey again.
7. Blazing Sevens (6-1) Did not race in the Derby in order to be ready for the Preakness, a decision his trainer has made twice, and won both times.
1. National Treasure (4-1) Bob Baffert horses have won the Preakness seven times and are looking for the eighth on Saturday.
I will round out my trifecta with two long shots to show.
5. Red Route One (10-1) Gun Runner is his sire. He has a good running style and has impressive closing speed. If given the correct ride, could be a factor.
6. Perform (15-1) Won the Tesio Stakes from nine back, which was impressive. Has the same sire as Mage (Good Magic). Could challenge at the end.
$1 Trifecta 1, 3 – with 1, 3, 7, with 7, 1, 5, 6 (total cost: $11)
That means I have 1 (National Treasure) or 3 (Mage) winning, with the 1, 3, or 7 (Blazing Sevens) placing (finishing second) and the 7, 1, 5 (Red Route One) or 6 (Perform) showing (finishing third).