Preakness 148: Could It Be Magic?

Mage at Pimlico Preakness week | Horsephotos


Continuing on the heels of a stacked card Friday, Pimlico offers a robust eight-stakes offering Saturday, led by the $1.5 million GI Preakness S. With GI Kentucky Derby winning Mage (Good Magic) looming as the one to beat, the race suffered a notable blow Friday with the defection of Godolphin's 'TDN Rising Star' First Mission (Street Sense), shaving the field back to seven. Having not only showed a recency in form but also the ability to win at the highest level, none of the chestnut's rivals can really make the same claim. The lightly raced colt ran three times at Gulfstream Park this winter, culminating with a runner-up finish behind 'Rising Star' Forte (Violence) in the Apr. 1 GI Curlin Florida Derby. Sent off at 15-1 odds in the Run for the Roses, the Gustavo Delgado-trained colt came from well off the pace to win by a length, propelling his entire team into a ride of a lifetime.

“I think he came back from [the Derby] better than he did from the [Florida Derby] to be honest,” confirmed Gustavo Delgado Jr., his father's assistant

Throughout the week at Pimlico, Mage went through his paces like an old pro, never turning a hair despite the throng of spectators and media turning out to the see the reigning Derby winner.

“Professional, that's the best way to describe [his demeanor],” said Delgado, Jr. “[He's] very quiet. The track being so quiet with only a few horses at the same time [during the Preakness training period], that helps too.”

Added Ramiro Restrepo, who owns the 3-year-old with OGMA Investments LLC, Sterling Racing LLC and CMNWLTH, “He's so smart. I can't overstate that. He's a really intelligent horse. Not only does he take care of himself during his races, but he knows when to commence.

“The races are developing him race by race. We're just waiting to see how much he has in the well of talent. Every day, he's showing more and more signs of maturation and understanding his job as a racehorse. It's great to see it happening.”

GI Champagne S. winner Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) is winless in three starts this season, finishing a solidly beaten third last time out in the Apr. 8 GI Toyota Blue Grass S. Despite some of the shortcomings, the colt's trainer Chad Brown has already tasted victory on two prior occasions in the Preakness with 'fresh' horses–Cloud Computing (Maclean's Music) and Early Voting (Gun Runner). Additionally, he is responsible for guiding Good Magic through his championship juvenile season in 2017 before finishing runner-up in the Kentucky Derby the following spring. Fourth in that year's Preakness, Good Magic also won the GI Haskell Invitational S.

Setting up the race for a possible 'Magic' trifecta, Perform offers trainer Shug McGaughey the opportunity to win his first Preakness. At Pimlico's annual Alibi Breakfast Thursday morning, McGaughey took to the podium following an enthusiastic round of applause to discuss the chances of the Federico Tesio S. winner. Somewhat stayed while assessing his chances in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Hall of Famer spoke with the confidence of somebody who knows they have a legitimate contender. And supplementing the horse for $150,000 seemed to underscore that belief as well.

“If he hadn't run well [in the Tesio] we wouldn't be running here,” said McGaughey. “Although we didn't go into the Tesio thinking we'd run here if he ran well. He was not nominated to the Preakness. After the way he ran..[jockey] Feargal [Lynch] said he thought it was too bad the horse wasn't nominated because he thought he was a Preakness-type horse.”

You don't know if you're good enough until you try them. I've never won the Preakness and I won't win the Preakness if they're standing there in the stall.”

Trainer Bob Baffert is also represented with National Treasure (Quality Road) a first-out winner who has hit the board in four of five career starts. Third in the GIII Sham S. in January, he was last seen finishing fourth in the GI Santa Anita Derby. Baffert is bidding for his record-breaking eighth victory in the Preakness. His most recent victory was in 2018 with Triple Crown winner Justify.

Rounding out the field are a trio of stakes winners, Chase the Chaos (Astern {Aus}), Coffeewithchris (Ride On Curlin) and Red Route One (Gun Runner).

East vs. West in Chick Lang
It's East versus West in the six-furlong GIII Chick Lang S. Saturday afternoon. Representing the left coast is Havnameltdown (Uncaptured), a three-time graded stakes winner trained by Bob Baffert. Runner-up in last season's Del Mar Futurity, he finished a close-up second his latest start in the G3 Saudi Derby.

“He ran a great race,” Baffert said of the Saudi Derby. “A mile is a little bit too far for him. He's a sprinter. That's his distance, six to seven furlongs.”

Also having shown his affinity for three-quarters of a mile, four-time stakes winner Super Chow (Lord Nelson) enters the Chick Lang off an impressive 5 1/4-length score in Gulfstream's Hutcheson S. in March.

“The horse hasn't done anything wrong since he came to the barn as a 2-year-old,” said Jorge Delgado, who is based at Monmouth Park in the summer and Gulfstream Park in the winter. “His record is magnificent. In his eight starts he has run at [five] different racetracks with six wins, one second and one third. The last time he got beat [GIII Swale Feb. 4], he got beat by a horse that won at Churchill [Downs] on Derby Day [General Jim, GII Pat Day Mile]. So, he's been competing against real quality horses. I do know the race is going to be very competitive, but my horse is 100% ready to run this race.”

Never to be discounted on te big days, trainer Steve Asmussen saddles Ryvit (Competitive Edge), who rides a three-race winning skein. In his latest start, the colt took a muddy renewal of Oaklawn's Bachelor S. Apr. 29.

Motion Well Armed on Turf
Trainer Graham Motion once again presents a customary strong hand in Pimlico's graded turf features. Motion is represented by a trio of runners in the GIII Galorette S., headed by dual stakes winner Vergara (Noble Mission {GB}). Off since a runner-up finish in last fall's GII Sands Point S. at Aqueduct, the bay is reunited with Joel Rosario. The trainer also offers up Italian import Sopran Basilea (Ire) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) and MSW Bipartisanship (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}), runner up in a Keeneland allowance in her sole race in 2023.

Hoping to get a win early in the day is Chad Brown, who saddles SP Whitebeam (GB) (Caravaggio) in addition to SW Eminent Victor (Mr. Z), making her 2023 debut under Flavien Prat.

One race later in the nine-furlong GIII Dinner Party S., Motion returns with another three runners, including last out Keeneland winner Hurricane Dream (Fr) (Hurricane Cat). The French import will be accompanied by GI Hollywood Derby scorer Speaking Scout (Mr Speaker) and Easter (Fr) (Exosphere {Aus}), a winner going a mile in a Big A allowance Apr. 7.

Todd Pletcher brings to the fore 'TDN Rising Star' Emmanuel (More Than Ready), victorious in the GIII Tampa Bay Derby and GIII Canadian Turf earlier this winter. Most recently, he was seventh after a tardy start in the GI Maker's Mark Mile Apr. 14.

This winter's GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational winner Atone (Into Mischief) tries to bounce back following a lackluster ninth in the Muniz Memorial Classic S. Mar. 25.

Rounding out Pimlico's graded action is the GIII Maryland Sprint S. Trying to recapture their winning form are Grade III winners 'Rising Star' Prevalence (Medaglia d'Oro) as well as Willy Boi (Uncaptured). Likely to take much of the money at the windows, Straight No Chaser (Speightster) and GSW Wonderwherecraigis (Munnings) will try to successfully take the next step up to graded company following last out allowance wins. Wesley Ward returns with Nakatomi (Firing Line), winless in his last three starts, including a fourth-place finish in Keeneland's GIII Commonwealth S. Apr. 8.

Churchill offers it's solitary graded test of the day, the card's anchor the GIII Louisville S. Mike Maker offers a strong pairing led by last out GII Pan American winner Therapist (Freud). He also takes a shot with former claimer turned recent Gulfstream allowance winner Yamato (Artie Schiller).

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