Kentucky Derby Winner Mage Headlines Prospective Preakness Stakes Field

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Mage Kentucky Derby horse racing Preakness Stakes Forte Todd Pletcher Gustavo Delgado Ramiro Restrepo Brad Cox First Mission Steve Asmussen Disarm Red Route One Triple Crown Arabian Lion Bob Baffert Il Miracolo Antonio Sano Henry Q National Treasure Confi
Jockey Javier Castellano celebrates with connections of Mage as the colt is led to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle May 6. (Coady Photography)

Mage, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner, headlines the potential starters in the May 20 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course 48 hours after the colt won the 149th run for the roses.

The Preakness status of champion Forte, who had been the Derby favorite before he was scratched over a regulatory veterinarian’s concerns related to a mending bruise in a right front foot, is in doubt after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission issued a statement on the afternoon of May 8 placing the colt on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list. That order prohibits competition and extends to May 21, the day after the 148th Preakness will be held.

The Preakness starting gate will likely be filled mostly with 3-year-olds who are new shooters to the Triple Crown, with quick Stonestreet Lexington Stakes winner First Mission chief among them.

Of the losing Kentucky Derby participants, Rebel Stakes winner Confidence Game, 10th in the Run for the Roses, appears at this early juncture to be the horse most likely for the quick turnaround to the Preakness.

Restrepo (right of trophy) and connections. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Speaking outside Mage’s barn on the Churchill Downs backstretch May 7, bloodstock agent Ramiro Restrepo, one of the owners in Mage along with OGMA Investments, Sterling Racing, and Commonwealth, said trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. and his son, assistant Gustavo Delgado Jr. would “go over the horse” before a firm decision on the Preakness is made. But he said the Good Magic colt could run absent a reason to bypass the race.

Later in the morning, the elder Delgado said, “The horse is looking very good. I checked with the vet, and he’s fine.”

Restrepo said the best interests of Mage would come first, in keeping with their management of the horse. After a Jan. 28 debut maiden win at Gulfstream Park, the 3-year-old ran fourth in the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes and second in the April 1 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa at Gulfstream to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He was fourth in the Fountain of Youth and second in the Florida Derby to Forte, last year’s champion 2-year-old male.

“He’s taken us race to race. We never pushed him or forced him to do what he didn’t want to do,” Restrepo said. “We put the horse before (our desires).”

Provided a Derby winner is healthy, he typically returns in the Preakness in pursuit of the prestigious Triple Crown, a three-race series over five weeks that only 13 horses in history have swept. The Triple Crown concludes with the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park June 10. Horses able to sweep the Triple Crown become part of racing history and see their eventual stallion value rise.

Last year’s Derby winner Rich Strike was one of the few healthy Derby winners to skip the Preakness, and he later returned in the Belmont Stakes, finishing sixth.

Todd Pletcher (Eclipse Sportswire)

Amid tight veterinary scrutiny following numerous fatalities at Churchill Downs over the past two weeks, there were five scratches from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, with Forte the lone race-day scratch.

“I think that he would have performed well yesterday,” Forte’s Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday while also acknowledging that he was “understanding what the veterinarians were seeing” and the collective effort for equine health.

“Right now, everyone is doing everything they can to make sure that the horses are going out there in the safest possible condition,” he said. “Still, we had two fatal breakdowns (in earlier races) yesterday. It’s something that as a trainer keeps you up at night.”

Pletcher’s two Derby starters, Tapit Trice (seventh) and Kingsbarns (14th), are not pointed to the Preakness. Pletcher said with regard to Tapit Trice, a son of Tapit with a style and pedigree for distance success, that he would “strongly believe the Belmont is his next start.”

Plans are not as solidified for Kingsbarns, who chased a hot pace in the Derby before fading, though Pletcher said he “wouldn’t rule him out of the Belmont.”

Trainer Brad Cox, like Pletcher, is typically reluctant to run his horses on two weeks’ rest and does not have any of his four Derby participants aimed at the Preakness. His Derby competitors – Angel of Empire, Hit Show, Verifying, and Jace’s Road – ran third, fifth, 16th, and 17th, respectively, in the 18-horse field.

His Preakness hopeful is Godolphin’s up-and-coming First Mission, a winner of two of three starts, including a half-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington at Keeneland April 15, three weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

“I think he matches up well with the top 3-year-old colts around two turns. I really do believe that,” Cox said of the son of Street Sense, who is scheduled to have one more breeze before the Preakness.

First Mission worked five furlongs in a swift :59.80 at Churchill Downs the morning of the Derby.

Angel of Empire and Hit Show would be the two from Cox’s stable most likely to pursue the Belmont. The former would likely be one of the race favorites after starting as the Forte-less public choice at 4.06-1 odds in the Derby. He closed ground to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Mage.

Derby runner-up Two Phil’s registered a commendable performance Saturday, taking command from a tiring Verifying around the far turn and opening a 1 1/2-length lead mid-stretch before being collared in the final furlong by Mage. The Larry Rivelli trainee was beaten only a length at the wire.

Rivelli reported that the son of Hard Spun would be shipped back to his primary stable at Hawthorne Race Course, where he trained and breezed prior to the Kentucky Derby.

“Phil is good today,” Rivelli wrote via text message Sunday morning. “The plan as of now is to consider the Preakness.”

Confidence Game followed Two Phil’s stalking bid, moving up to fourth after a mile, but came up empty in the Kentucky Derby’s closing quarter mile, losing by 14 1/2 lengths.

“Fast pace but he hung in there the best he could,” trainer Keith Desormeaux wrote via text message. “I take the blame for putting too much speed in him during his works. He was a bit too keen.”

After racing in the Kentucky Derby following a 70-day layoff, the Candy Ride colt was fresher than some of his counterparts.

The Preakness, which Desormeaux won in 2016 with Exaggerator, could be next. “Will decide in one week,” the trainer texted.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm as well as Bath House Row Stakes victor Red Route One are both under consideration for the Preakness.

Red Route One earned a fees-paid berth in the Preakness by virtue of winning Oaklawn Park’s Bath House Row April 22. Both colts are owned by Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and are sons of Gun Runner, the 2017 North American Horse of the Year is campaigned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.

Disarm, the Louisiana Derby runner-up who secured enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby by finishing third behind First Mission in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes, finished 4 1/2 lengths behind Mage in the Derby.

“I was very happy with how Disarm came out of the race, bright and alert and traveling well,” Asmussen said. “He’s a tough horse. We thought Disarm ran solid. We wanted a little better result, but he competed well against the best 3-year-olds in the country and we expect him to continue to get better.”

Red Route One worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Sunday morning at Churchill, the second-fastest of eight at the distance. Asmussen reported that he would work again May 13, while Disarm would work May 15. He had mentioned previously that his Preakness Day horses would ship to Pimlico May 16.

Many other Derby horses that shipped to Churchill Downs are headed back to their regular training bases, including foreign competitors Derma Sotogake and Mandarin Hero. The Derby’s sixth- and 12th-place finishers depart for Japan May 8.

Non-Derby horses under consideration for the Preakness include Bob Baffert graded-placed runners Arabian Lion and National Treasure; 2022 Champagne Stakes winner and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes show finisher Blazing Sevens, trained by Chad Brown; the Antonio Sano-trained Il Miracolo, most recently sixth in the Florida Derby; and Mine That Bird Derby winner Henry Q, third in the Sunland Park Derby, who is back training in Southern California after racing in New Mexico with trainer Todd Fincher.–with additional reporting by Frank Angst and Molly Rollins

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