2023 Preakness Stakes Preview and Picks
2023 PREAKNESS STAKES PREVIEW AND PICKS – The 148th Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the crown for the Triple Derby, will take place this Saturday, May 20th, at 6:50 pm EST.
Pimlico hosts the annual race and the track runs 13/16 miles. The race is for three-year-old colts, geldings, and fillies. The Preakness lays claim to some of the most famous horses in history, including Seabiscuit. The winner of the Preakness is draped in a masquerade of black-eyed susans, the Maryland state flower. This is the shortest of the three races in the Triple Crown and can be susceptible to the weather. Think: mud.
Mage comes in as the heavy favorite (8-5) and is the only horse in the field that ran in the Kentucky Derby. Many trainers have chosen to race in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes, because of the short rest between the two. Mage will race against six other horses who will all attempt to snag the second jewel in the crown.
Will Mage dominate the field? Can Bob Baffert’s horse, National Treasure, overcome its #1 post position against the rail? Is there value in a longshot like Perform or Coffeewithchris? I have your comprehensive racing preview for the Preakness Stakes below. Read on to get the edge on the field this Saturday.
The Preakness Stakes is run at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland. The track runs a furlong shorter than the track at Churchill Downs, which plays host to the Kentucky Derby. It’s the shortest of the three tracks, so closers will have a difficult time catching the front runners and may run out of dirt.
The track at Pimlico is not set up well for closers because the dirt is a little softer. It’s commonly thought the track is set up to favor frontrunners, which could be good news for some of the horses in the field that get out of the gate early. For those thoroughbreds that prefer to run in the back of the pack, they will still need a good start out of the gate or they may find themselves running out of dirt.
The weather forecast for Baltimore shows a high of 76℉ and a low of 62℉ with scattered thunderstorms throughout the day. It may not be raining during the race (post time: 6:50 pm EST), but we can expect the track to be muddy with scattered showers throughout the day.
The mud is normal for the Preakness and the trainers will be ready for these conditions. This makes getting out of the gate quickly a priority, as it will be more difficult for horses with closing speed to make gains on a wet track.
Look for horses that favor the pocket and start strong out of the gate. It may be also worth noting that a few of the horses have impressive finishes in the mud, but Pimlico is just not known for that style of horse racing. We’ll see.
#1: National Treasure (4-1)
Bob Baffert is back in the big time after his ban from Churchill Downs kept him out of the Kentucky Derby for the second year in a row. John Velazquez will mount National Treasure, who is considered one of the favorites in the Preakness, second only to Mage.
National Treasure has only five starts in his career with one win and one second-place finish. His inexperience could be a concern, but, after Mage’s win at the Derby, it’s unlikely most cappers will put much stock into experience at the Preakness. He likes to run in the pocket and has shown good closing speed in the past.
My biggest concern with National Treasure is that he doesn’t seem to be progressing, as his equine speed hovers around 101. That’s still pretty great speed, mind you, but, considering National Treasure started at an Equine speed of 92, it’s not much improvement. We haven’t seen him make a jump and, in the Preakness, the horse has to want to win.
Baffert isn’t thrilled with the #1 post position, but the rail is not a death sentence here.. National Treasure will run with blinkers this Saturday. He should run in the pocket position and look to close down the stretch. We’ll see if he can do it.
I like him at 4-1, but I suspect he’ll get hammered down and I’d be less comfortable with him at 3-1.
#2: Chase the Chaos (50-1)
Ed Moger Jr.’s horse, Chase the Chaos, is mounted by Sheldon Russell. Chase the Chaos is a 50-1 longshot and would need to make incredible strides very quickly in order to claim the black-eyed susans.
He won the automatic qualifier at the El Camino Real , but he runs much better on synthetic than on dirt. His sire, Astern, was a champion racehorse on turf and we see Chase the Chaos do much better on synthetic. The mud is going to be an issue.
He’s a closer who prefers to run in near the back until the last stretch. He’s been trending downward with some uninspiring finishes coming into the Preakness. This is not his race.
There are other long shots that deserve our attention, but Chase the Chaos is not one of them. Play this horse at your own risk.
#3: Mage (8-5)
Mage is seeking the second jewel in his crown after a surprising win at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. He has been a nice story, but I’m worried the chalk might not be warranted in this race.
Mage is the only horse who ran in the Kentucky Derby who will run again just two weeks later in the Preakness. Most trainers who believe they can win at the Preakness have been hesitant to run their horse at Churchill Downs, citing concerns about short rest as the primary factor.
Mage also doesn’t have much experience. This will only be his 5th career start and it’s been difficult to get any predictive statistics to suggest how he will run.
He likes to break late and then hold on for dear life. There are a lot of frontrunners in this race, which could create an opportunity for Mage to jostle with National Treasure for position to come on late. The biggest issue is that there aren’t any frontrunners who set the pace, so Mage could get complacent and miss his opportunity.
Even still, Mage has shown us that he likes to win, isn’t worried about the crowd, and has the guts to hold onto a lead. He should be the favorite, but at 8-5, I like to think we can find value elsewhere.
#4: Coffeewithchris (20-1)
Here’s a live longshot that a lot of cappers are showing interest. Coffeewithchris is trained by John Salzman, Jr. and mounted by Jaime Rodriguez. He races mostly out of Laurel Park these days, so he’s an East Coast boy. He also has a Pimlico win in 2022 and one winat Laurel Park in 2023.
He has Curlin running lines in his blood, which makes him a distant relative of Mage and Blazing Sevens.
Coffeewithchris loves to get out of the gate and run in front. Look for the #4 horse to set the pace and lead for much of the race. The biggest issue with Coffeewithchris is that he doesn’t set the pace well and often allows closers who run in the pocket to beat him out down the stretch. If Salzman, Jr. wants to hit his 20-1 horse, he’s going to need Rodriguez to be aggressive and hold his lead throughout the entirety of the race. This is a difficult ask for Coffeewithchris, made even more difficult by the wet conditions.
Coffeewithchris will fly out of the gate and give everyone with a ticket on the #4 horse a lot to cheer about, but ultimately he’ll falter down the stretch and I’m not even sure he’ll show.
#5: Red Route One (10-1)
Red Route One is trained by Steve Asmussen and mounted by Joel Rosario. He’s a trendy pick at 10-1 and for good reason. He’s a deep closer, but lacks early speed. His sire is Gun Runner, who is a legendary horse and the 2016 horse of the year. Asmussen trained Gun Runner as well.
Red Route One has tremendous equine speed figures and has been trending in the right direction. He finished first at the qualifier at the Bath Hosue Row Stakes earlier in the year with an Equine speed of 102. He’s made the jump in speed over the last year and seems to be getting faster with every race.
The issue with Red Route One is he’s never won a Grade 1 race. He’s a pace-dependent horse that likes to use that closing speed to catch the pace down the stretch. At 13/16 miles, this will also be the longest race he’s run. My concern here is that Red Route One will run out of track and won’t be able to make good on his closing speed.
Red Route One hasn’t shown enough for me to recommend him here. He may never make much of a move and could be overmatched in this field.
#6: Perform (15-1)
Perform is my favorite of the longshots. He’s trained by Shug McGaughey and mounted by Feargal Lynch. He shares the same sire with Mage (Good Magic) and has won in two big time races back-to-back. He ran against Mage at Gulfstream on January, 28th of this year and came in fourth. Mage won the race.
He has two first place finishes coming into the Preakness, with a win in Tampa Bay and another in the qualifier for the Preakness at Tesio.
If you haven’t seen the Tesio race, it’s worth a look, as it’s a good summation of the running style of Perform’s and Coffeewithchris. Perform came from the rail in that race and switched positions to nose out ninetypercentmaddie. Coffeewithchris led most of the way and then finished fourth.
I like Perform because he shows guts and reacts to the bit. He likes to close and his equine speed has been increasing every race. The biggest drawbacks here are that he hasn’t run in a month, he barely won his qualifier, and the track at Pimlico doesn’t favor closers. I don’t think he’ll have enough to close this one out, but he will be in my vertical.
#7: Blazing Sevens (6-1)
This is my favorite horse in the field at this price. Blazing Sevens is trained by Chad Brown, who will be looking for his third Preakness win. He’s mounted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. and his sire is Good Magic (same sire as both Perform and Mage).
Chad Brown decided to keep Blazing Sevens out of the Kentucky Derby so that he would be fresh for the Preakness. This strategy has worked wonders for Brown in the past and so I have no reason to question it. He’ll be better rested than Mage, which could end up being the difference.
Blazing Sevens likes to come up from the back. I’ve talked about closers earlier in this article and, while the track doesn’t favor closers, Blazing Sevens offers your best shot for this style of horse. There’s not a lot of early speed in the field, so Blazing Sevens will have the opportunity to catch the frontrunner.
His equine speed has been steadily improving as he rounds into form. The biggest question mark is the 8th place finish at Gulfstream park where he clocked an equine speed of 65. However, Blazing Sevens hadn’t run a race in four months and it seemed like Brown just wanted him to stretch his legs. He looked much better Keenleand where he finished 3rd in a grade 1 race.
While Pimlico might not favor the closer, Blazing Sevens has what it takes to win this race in muddy conditions, as evidenced by his win at the Belmont in a grade 1 race in 2022.
He’s a great price at 6-1 and I’m looking to cash that ticket tomorrow night.
Outright: Blazing Sevens (6-1)
Exacta #1: Blazing Sevens (1)/National Treasure (2)
Exacta #2: National Treasure (1)/ Mage (2)
Trifecta #1: Blazing Sevens (1)/ National Treasure (2)/ Perform (3)
Trifecta #2: National Treasure (1)/ Mage (2)/Coffeewithchris (3)