(AP) – Kentucky Derby winner Mage remains on track to run in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore next week and resume the chase for horse racing’s first Triple Crown since Justify in 2018, with a final decision expected Friday.
Ramiro Restrepo, part of the ownership group, said Thursday those in charge of deciding Mage’s next race wanted to see one final workout before making that determination.
“Everything is just patience and temperance on our end,” Restrepo said on a conference call with reporters. “The plan is that if on Friday he trains satisfactory like he’s been training all week, then we would make the announcement that we would go to the Preakness.”
Mage would be the first unquestioned Derby winner to go to the Preakness with a chance to win the Triple Crown since Justify five years ago.
In 2019, Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House elevated to first with neither running in the Preakness; in 2020, the Belmont Stakes was run first because of the pandemic; in 2021, Medina Spirit failed a drug test after winning the Derby and was eventually DQed; and in 2022, the owner and trainer of long shot Rich Strike decided to skip the race.
While the two weeks between the Derby and Preakness make for an unusually tight turnaround for top thoroughbreds in North America, Restrepo downplayed that concern, citing trainer Gustavo Delgado’s experience.
“He’s won two (Venezuelan) Triple Crowns with similar timeframes, so as far as being prepared and being able to know all the things that Mage needs to check off the list to be able to participate his best for the Preakness, we have that in play and we’re quite comfortable with it,” Restrepo said.
Logistical preparations are already underway to get Mage from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, to Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore.
Restrepo said he and the other owners will make the best decision for the lightly raced colt with only four career starts.
“Every decision that is made on our end, Mage makes that decision for us,” he said. “All indications are that Mage is feeling good, doing well on the racetrack.”
Chase Chamberlin, co-founder and head of racing for Commonwealth, a consortium that like Restrepo owns a 25% stake in Mage, echoed the sentiment of putting the horse first and defended Delgado for not committing to the Preakness right away.
“Gustavo has gotten some flack on horse racing Twitter, of course, for not declaring Preakness instantly,” Chamberlin told The Associated Press. “He is making sure that the horse is 100% ready.”
Mage won the Derby at odds of 15-1 after a tumultuous 10-day stretch at Churchill Downs during which seven horses died and five were scratched from the $3 million race, leaving a field of 18 to run instead of the usual 20.
Forte, the morning line favorite, was scratched hours before by Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians who had concerns about a bruised right front foot. Kentucky racing officials put him on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list earlier this week, and on Thursday trainer Todd Pletcher was suspended 10 days by New York officials for Forte’s positive drug test in September, ruling out any slim chance of the horse running in the Preakness.
Fourth-place Derby finisher Disarm is expected to join Mage in the Preakness field.
“Very pleased with how he’s come out of the race,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who is also planning to saddle Red Route One in the Preakness. “(Disarm has) been back to the track a couple of days now. Will not need much at all from him from a training standpoint. Just want him to continue to be loose and comfortable.”
Brad Cox, who had four horses in the Derby, will not bring any of them back for the Preakness but instead intends to challenge Mage this time with First Mission. Shug McGaughey has his first Preakness horse in a decade in Perform, and Chad Brown is planning to enter Blazing Sevens in the race.
It was not clear if Bob Baffert, who was not allowed to train horses for the Derby in 2022 or ‘23 because of Medina Spirit’s failed drug test but is now cleared to do so in the Preakness, will decide to go for a record-breaking eight victory in the race with National Treasure.