Mage flew under the radar during Kentucky Derby week, especially at the betting windows.
Despite a handful of scratches that included morning-line favorite Forte, the lightly-raced colt was overlooked by the wagering public. Mage went off at 15-1 odds but proved best during the stretch run at Churchill Downs.
The son of Good Magic will have plenty of support when he enters the starting gate for the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course on Saturday. Mage was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Even with the late flurry of defections, Mage faced 17 opponents in Louisville. He’ll only have six challengers on Saturday and none that entered the starting gate with him on May 6. The field dropped to seven after First Mission was scratched Friday with a left-hind issue.
The smaller field makes post positions much less important but assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. was still pleased that Mage drew the No. 3 spot.
“I’m pretty content with it,” he said. “I was more concerned at the Derby with a 20-horse field. … I think every horse is going to have a decent shot and hopefully the best wins. That’s what horse racing is about.”
Mage’s main challengers, based on morning-line odds, had been assigned the outside post and the rail. First Mission, who was assigned the No. 8 post, was the 5-2 second choice before the scratch and National Treasure, coming out of the No. 1 spot, is 4-1.
Mage’s upset was a big win for Venezuela, as trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. and jockey Javier Castellano hail from that country. The horse was more familiar with Florida, as he raced three times at Gulfstream Park before being shipped to Churchill Downs. He was a runner-up in the Florida Derby behind Forte, rallying from last after breaking slowly to take the lead before Forte caught him as he appeared to tire just before the wire.
Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown, including recent winners American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).
Mage was 16th at the half-mile pole in the Derby but an unexpectedly fast pace set up his late kick. He edged past Two Phil’s to win by a length.
The pace could be quite different on Saturday.
National Treasure, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, is expected to be aggressively ridden by jockey John Velasquez. National Treasure is trained by Bob Baffert, who was banned for a second straight year from having an entrant in the Derby. Baffert has trained seven Preakness winners, including American Pharoah and Justify.
Coffeewithchris is the only other entrant who typically flashes early speed.
A slower pace could make it more challenging for Mage to launch another winning rally, a fact that is not lost on his assistant trainer.
“Our horse has to get a decent pace and make his run and hope for the best,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr.
The rest of the field includes No. 2 Chase the Chaos (50-1), No. 5 Red Route One (10-1), No. 6 Perform (15-1) and No. 7 Blazing Sevens (6-1).
–Field Level Media
Ashley Rogers went the distance to keep No. 4 seed Tennessee’s title hopes alive with a 3-1 win over No. 6 seed Oklahoma State on Sunday at the Women’s College…
Kylie Chung drove in the only run of the game before NiJaree Canady polished off a complete-game one-hitter as No. 9 seed Stanford staved off elimination from the Women’s College…
Tiare Jennings and Kinzie Hansen each hit home runs as top-seeded Oklahoma rolled to a 9-0 mercy-rule victory over No. 4 Tennessee on Saturday to extend its winning streak to…
NiJaree Canady’s WCWS one-hitter helps Stanford eliminate Washington
Oklahoma rolls past Tennessee and into WCWS semis
Oklahoma State ousts Utah at Women’s College World Series
Stanford shuts out Alabama, stays alive in WCWS