Mage, the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, is making headlines among potential starters in the Preakness Stakes on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, 48 hours after the colt won heat 149 for the Roses.
The preakness status of Champion Forte, who was the Derby favorite before he was scratched on a right forefoot over concerns from a board veterinarian related to a healing bruise, is in doubt after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on the afternoon of May has made a statement 8 placing the stallion on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list. This order bans the competition and is in effect until May 21, the day after the 148th Preakness.
The Preakness starting gate is likely to be filled mostly with 3-year-olds who are new shooters for the Triple Crown, including fast Stonestreet Lexington Stakes winner First Mission Chief.
Of the losing Kentucky Derby contenders, Rebel Stakes winner Confidence Game, 10th in the Run for the Roses, seems like the horse most likely to be a quick return to preakness at this early stage.
Speaking outside Mage’s barn on Churchill Downs on May 7, Bloodstock agent Ramiro Restrepo, one of the owners of Mage along with OGMA Investments, Sterling Racing and Commonwealth, said that trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. and his son, assistant Gustavo Delgado Jr. would “go over the horse” before making a firm decision about pre-acne. But he said the Good Magic stallion could run without a reason to avoid the race.
Later that morning the elder Delgado said, “The horse looks very well. I checked with the vet and he’s fine.”
Restrepo said that consistent with her management of the horse, Mage’s best interests would come first. After a debut win on January 28 at Gulfstream Park, the 3-year-old finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4 and runner-up in the Curlin Florida Derby on April 1 presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Xalapa at Gulfstream to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth and second in the Florida Derby behind Forte, last year’s two-year-old male champion.
“He took us from race to race. We never pushed or forced him to do anything he didn’t want to do,” Restrepo said. “We introduce the horse (our desires).”
Provided a Derby winner is healthy, he usually returns to the Preakness to chase the prestigious Triple Crown, a three-race, five-week series won by just 13 horses in history. The Triple Crown concludes with the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park on June 10th. Horses that can sweep the Triple Crown become part of racing history and see their eventual stallion value increase.
Last year’s Derby winner Rich Strike was one of the few healthy Derby winners to skip the preakness and he later returned to the Belmont Stakes, finishing sixth.
Amid a rigorous veterinary investigation following numerous deaths at Churchill Downs over the past two weeks, there were five scratches from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, with Forte being the only scratch on race day.
“I think he would have done well yesterday,” Fortes Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday, while acknowledging that he “understood what the vets were seeing” and the collective effort for equine health.
“Right now everyone is doing everything they can to make sure the horses go there in the safest possible condition,” he said. “Nevertheless, we had two fatal breakdowns yesterday (in previous races). That’s something that keeps you up at night as a coach.”
Pletcher’s two Derby starters, Tapit Trice (seventh) and Kingsbarns (14th) are not pointed out the preakness. Referring to Tapit Trice, a Tapit son with a style and pedigree for distance success, Pletcher said he “strongly believes Belmont is his next start”.
Plans for Kingsbarns, who set a blistering pace in the Derby before fading, aren’t as solid, although Pletcher said he “won’t shut him out of the Belmont”.
Trainer Brad Cox, like Pletcher, is usually reluctant to let his horses walk in a two-week break and has none of his four Derby entrants targeting the preakness. His Derby competitors – Angel of Empire, Hit Show, Verifying and Jace’s Road – finished third, fifth, 16th and 17th respectively in the 18-horse field.
His Preakness hopeful is Godolphin’s up-and-coming First Mission, a winner of two of three starts, including a half-length triumph at the 1 1/16-mile Lexington in Keeneland on April 15, three weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
“I think he goes well with the best 3-year-old colts by two rounds. I really think so,” Cox said of Street Sense’s son, who is said to have a breeze ahead of Preakness.
First Mission worked five stadia in a fast :59.80 on the morning of the Derby at Churchill Downs.
Angel of Empire and Hit Show would be the two of Cox’s stable most likely to pursue Belmont. The former would likely be one of the race favorites, having started odds of 4.06-1 in the Derby as a no-forte public choice. He closed the ground to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Mage.
Derby runners-up Two Phil’s put in a commendable performance on Saturday, taking command of a tiring verify around the long corner and opening a 1 1/2-length lead midway before being caught by Mage in the final furlong. Larry Rivelli’s trainee was only beaten by a length on the wire.
Rivelli reported that Hard Spun’s son would be taken back to his ancestral stables at Hawthorne Race Course, where he trained and charge ahead of the Kentucky Derby.
“Phil is fine today,” Rivelli texted Sunday morning. “The plan now is to consider the Preakness.”
Confidence Game followed Two Phil’s stalking bid to move up to fourth after a mile, but went empty in the final quarter mile of the Kentucky Derby, losing by 14 1/2 lengths.
“Fast pace but he persevered as best he could,” coach Keith Desormeaux wrote via text message. “I take the blame for speeding his work too much. It was a bit too spicy.”
After racing in the Kentucky Derby after a 70-day break, the Candy Ride filly was fresher than some of his peers.
The Preakness, which Desormeaux won with Exaggerator in 2016, could be next. “Decide in a week,” wrote the coach.
Hall of Fame coach Steve Asmussen said both Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm and Bath House Row Stakes winner Red Route One are being considered for the preakness.
Red Route One earned a paying berth in Preakness for winning Bath House Row at Oaklawn Park on April 22nd. Both stallions are owned by Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and Sons of Gun Runner, 2017 North American Horse of the Year by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.
Disarm, the Twinspires.com Louisiana derby runner-up who secured enough points for the Kentucky Derby by finishing third behind First Mission in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes, finished the derby 4 1/2 lengths behind Mage.
“I was very happy with how Disarm came out of the race, bright and alert and well on the way,” said Asmussen. “He’s a tough horse. We thought Disarm was solid. We wanted a slightly better result but he has held up well against the best three-year-olds in the country and we expect him to continue to improve.”
Red Route One worked five stadia in 1:01 1/5 Sunday morning at Churchill, second fastest of eight at the distance. Asmussen reported that he would return to work on May 13, while Disarm would return to work on May 15. He had previously mentioned that his Preakness Day horses would be delivered to Pimlico on May 16th.
Many other Derby horses shipped to Churchill Downs are returning to their regular training bases, including foreign competitors Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero. The sixth and 12th place finishers of the derby travel to Japan on May 8th.
Non-Derby horses under consideration for Preakness include Bob Baffert’s ranked runners Arabian Lion and National Treasure; Blazing Sevens, winner of the 2022 Champagne Stakes and show finisher of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, coached by Chad Brown; Antonio Sano’s Il Miracolo, most recently sixth in the Florida Derby; and Mine That Bird Derby winner Henry Q, third in the Sunland Park Derby, who is back training in Southern California with trainer Todd Fincher after racing in New Mexico.–with additional reporting from Frank Angst and Molly Rollins