By Jarrod Horak
The 2023 Preakness Stakes lost a major contender when First Mission scratched on Friday morning due to a problem with his left-hind ankle. How does that defection impact the race? Let’s find out.
I wrote an article about the Preakness pace scenario earlier this week and stated that there were only three horses with early-pressing speed. First Mission was one of the runners with the ability to impact the pace, and his defection makes things easier for National Treasure and Coffeewithchris.
First Mission was my original top choice, and now I am siding with National Treasure. Bob Baffert’s colt might be able to slow things down up front under John Velazquez, and if Coffeewithchris does not go after him, he might cruise to an easy victory. Coffeewithchris’s connections believe he is most effective if he has a target to chase, and if they concede the early lead to the Baffert trainee, it might be lights out.
Obviously, Kentucky Derby hero Mage deserves plenty of respect, but the son of Good Magic has never been the best gate horse and has become a talented closer. He did wire the field in his extended sprint debut and stalked and weakened in the Fountain of Youth second time out. He broke slow and rallied to the fore from the back of the pack in the Florida Derby, and 2-year-old champ Forte ran by him late. He put it all together in the Kentucky Derby but the pace was electric and he was helped by multiple scratches. He was the best closer that day. The Preakness only has seven entrants and the pace figures to be much slower. He will have to run a different race at Pimlico against multiple fresh faces, and we do not know how he will handle the quick turnaround.
Blazing Sevens and Perform are not without a chance, but less pace does not benefit either of those runners. Red Route One has no early speed and will try to pass them all, but I cannot see that happening. Chase the Chaos completes the field and he is not fast enough to compete with this group.
Preakness 2023 field with morning line odds:
1 – National Treasure (4-1)
2 – Chase the Chase (50-1)
3 – Mage (8-5)
4 – Coffeewithchris (20-1)
5 – Red Route One (10-1)
6 – Perform (15-1)
7 – Blazing Sevens (6-1)
8 – First Mission – SCRATCHED