The rapidly-improving colt was previously an excellent second in the Florida Derby (G1) in only his third career start.
Mage defied the historical stats as an unraced juvenile to win the Derby, and he now aims to become the 37th horse to turn the classic double in the Preakness.
None of his Derby rivals will re-oppose on Saturday, but seven “new shooters” to the Triple Crown are trying to thwart Mage in the 1 3/16-mile feature.
First Mission, who likewise just started racing this season, is listed as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. The Brad Cox trainee is 2-for-2 over a route of ground, including a gutsy score in the Lexington (G3).
Two of Mage’s opponents are fellow sons of Good Magic, Blazing Sevens, and Perform. Although both had been well behind Mage in different races at Gulfstream Park, they are eligible to fare better in the rematch.
Champagne (G1) winner Blazing Sevens had sufficient points for the Derby, but trainer Chad Brown opted to give him more time after his third in the Blue Grass (G1). He was just turning the corner that day after flopping in the Fountain of Youth (G2), where Mage finished ahead of him in fourth.
The freshness angle worked for both of Brown’s Preakness heroes, Cloud Computing (2017) and Early Voting (2022).
Perform punched his Preakness ticket in the “Win and You’re In” Federico Tesio S., but still needed to pay a $150,000 supplemental fee because he wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown.
That’s a bullish sign from Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Perform is a different horse since stretching out to two turns; his earlier fourth to Mage had come in a sprint maiden.
National Treasure was a high-profile two-year-old for Bob Baffert, with placings in the American Pharaoh (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Off for three months following a third in the Sham (G3), he stands to move forward from his fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
National Treasure keeps Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and adds blinkers.
Derby trail veteran Red Route One secured his Preakness spot in the Bath House Row S. at Oaklawn Park, where he rallied to his first stakes win. The other who earned an automatic entry, El Camino Real Derby victor Chase the Chaos, is a 50-1 longshot after disappointing in his last pair.
Maryland-bred Coffeewithchris, coming off a fifth to Perform in the Tesio, hopes to be the hometown hero.
The 148th Preakness is the 13th race on a banner Saturday card, and you can watch and wager at TwinSpires.com