By Jarrod Horak
The 2023 Preakness Stakes played out in real time just the way it looked on paper. National Treasure broke smoothly from the inside post, got to the front with relative ease, and held off Blazing Sevens in the lane to win by a head. Kentucky Derby winner Mage was third.
The complexion of the race changed when First Mission had a rear leg issue and was forced to scratch on Friday morning. That left National Treasure and local hope Coffeewithchris as the only entrants with early speed, and once the latter allowed the eventual winner to set the pace by himself, the race was basically over.
National Treasure, ridden to victory by John Velazquez, added blinkers and carved out tepid splits of 24.97, 48.92, and 1:13.49. When you see fractions like that in a Grade 1 race, turn out the lights, the party is over!
Blazing Sevens sat a decent outer stalking trip under Irad Ortiz Jr. and gave it his all in the lane, but the winner had enough energy in reserve to hold him at bay and secure the win.
Mage raced evenly throughout under Javier Castellano in a disappointing show finish as the favorite. He ran the race of his life in the Derby at 15-1, and the fast pace was definitely to his liking that day. The lightly raced Good Magic colt was coming back in two weeks and tried to close into slow fractions to no avail.
Red Route One made a mild early move and was best of the rest in fourth. Chase the Chaos, Perform, and Coffeewithchris completed the order of finish.
National Treasure, a son of Quality Road trained by Bob Baffert, stopped the clock in 1:55.12 and paid $7.80 as the second betting choice. This was Baffert’s eight victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. This colt was one of the top juveniles in the land last year. He was second in the American Pharoah Stakes and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and they were both Grade 1 races. He was a solid third in his first sophomore outing in the Sham Stakes, and a foot bruise kept him out of the San Felipe. The Santa Anita Derby was his first start in three months and he finished a respectable fourth in a race he obviously needed. He put blinkers back on in the Preakness and wired the field. His only other victory was in his dirt sprint debut at Del Mar last summer, and he went wire-to-wire that day as well.
That’s a Preakness wrap. There will be no Triple Crown winner this year but the Belmont Stakes figures to be a wide open betting affair, and the undercard races are always strong at Belmont Park. I will be covering that race in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned.