The Kentucky Derby is a tough event to follow as the buildup lasts for months for the two-minute race.
This year with the late scratches, including the favorite Forte, the race was definitely down a bit in terms of excitement.
Mage captured the run to the roses with a tremendous closing kick and for a week after the race, the horse racing world had a horse that appeared to be a legitimate Triple Crown threat.
While Mage is still set to run in the Preakness – at least at 6:03 a.m. on Friday, the day before the race – the Preakness is turning out to look like a weak field for the middle leg of the Triple Crown this year.
Mage is the overwhelming favorite and with the scratch of 5-2 second choice First Mission on Friday, the field of now seven horses is even weaker. Mage is the lone runner from the Derby that returns for this start.
When Mage took the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago it was only the horse’s fourth start. At 15-1 he started near the back, then spent the trip around Churchill Downs picking the horses off one at a time before getting the lead in the lane and holding off Two Phil’s for the win.
He now has two wins and a second in four starts and the sky seems the limit. He starts the wagering at 8-5, but with the defection of the second favorite, even money would be a blessing to get. Javier Castellano, who won his first Kentucky Derby, is back up for trainer Gustavo Delgado.
National Treasure – back with Bob Baffert – is your likely second choice. The horse opens at 4-1, largely because Baffert being the trainer, but he appears to be a middle of the pack horse.
He has one win in five starts and that came against maiden company. Since then, he has been going backwards, finishing second, third twice, and fourth in his last start, the Santa Anita Derby.
He was in the barn of Tim Yakteen for the SA Derby start but has gone back to Baffert who had the horse for the first four starts. Johnny Velazquez has the call.
Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown trainer, Irad Ortiz Jr. up) is the third choice at 6-1, but he looks to have as many holes as the second choice.
When last seen, the horse was finishing third in the Blue Grass. The horse has two wins in six starts with the last time crossing the line first coming back in October at the Champagne at Aqueduct.
Blazing Sevens looked very promising as a 2-year-old, running strong in three Grade I races. Then this year the starts in the Fountain of Youth and the Blue Grass were average.
Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario) was solid in a pair of Oaklawn preps then laid an egg in the Arkansas Derby, finishing a decent beaten sixth. One bright spot – the horse did come back in a minor stake at Oaklawn and came running late for the win.
Perform (Claude McGaughey, Fergal Lynch, 15/1) took six starts before getting a win, then came back to win a minor stake at Laurel so comes into the race with two straight wins.
Coffeewithchris (John Salzman, Jaime Rodriguez, 20-1) ran fifth to Perform in his last start, so there is that. By far the most experienced runner with 12 starts. He has hit the board in eight of the 12 starts and has been well bet, but those were $100,000 races, not a $1.5 million purse.
Finally, Chase the Chaos wins the contest for the best name in the race and is a Northern California based horse. Ed Moger is the trainer with Sheldon Russell getting the call for the first time. The betting starts at 50-1.
He qualified for the start with a win in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 11. In the next start – the San Felipe at Santa Anita – he was seventh, beaten by over 16 lengths.
He then tried the California Derby back at Golden Gate and came away with an 8th, over six lengths back.
This is a race where Mage will be the heavy favorite and should win in a cakewalk. But the value will be low, very low.
This might be the weakest Preakness I have ever seen, so why not have some fun with the wagers.
I will throw a few bucks in the direction of Blazing Sevens. The Fountain of Youth stunk, but the horse was bumped on both sides early and never found any sort of rhythm. He came back with a strong third in the Blue Grass but did look tired late.
I trust the connections of Brown and Ortiz to get the horse in the right spot to have a shot.
Another fun bet – play a $1 exacta. Take Mage underneath the other six horses and hope the longest shot wins. In only a seven horse field, it won’t be as big as the Derby payouts, but it would be hard to imagine many having a Mage box with some of these. The bet would cost a scant $6.