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Who will win the 2023 Preakness?

Blazing Sevens
Chase the Chaos
National Treasure
Red Route One

Analyzing the Preakness Contenders

Date: 05/19/2023

In 2015 American Pharoah was a stand out in all his races and went on to sweep the Triple Crown, the first horse to do this since 1978, then things went back to normal with three different horses winning the Triple Crown races both in 2016 and 2017. Then in 2019 Justify broke all the rules by not only winning the Derby without racing as a juvenile, but completing the Triple Crown sweep before retiring after only six starts. Once again we will handicap the Preakness field using angles that have pointed at the winner in past years. It is well known that to win the Preakness, you have to have raced in the Kentucky Derby, and if the Derby is not in the horse's past performances he is an immediate toss for the win. However, in recent years, Rombauer (2021), Swiss Skydiver (2020), Cloud Computing (2017), and then a gap back to Rachel Alexandra (2009) pulled off the feat, however Oaks runner-up Swiss Skydiver may have been helped by the COVID-adjusted Triple Crown schedule that year.

This year's short field of 8 is disappointing, with Derby winner Mage being the only horse out of the 18 to Run for the Roses beneath the Twin Spires to enter the Preakness, and it follows that he would be an absolute standout in this race. On paper he should romp, but given he was a 15-1 longshot at Churchill Downs, this might be a chance to beat him when he goes off at close to even money.

We also recommend checking workout patterns in the final week since these are a good indicator of who is ready. Not having a work between the Derby and the Preakness used to be a negative, but several recent winners including Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah did not have a timed work during the 2 week layoff so this is no longer worthy of consideration. But note again that all of them lacking timed works came out of the Derby, so with that short layoff a timed work may be unnecessary. Horses not coming from the Derby nor from a similarly short layoff (such as Armagnac off a 13 day break) definitely need a timed work.

Where there is a tie in points we will list the horses in morning line odds order as the tiebreaker. You can view free past performances here from (looks for First Mission).

Mage is the runaway winner in this year's analysis but he does not check all of the boxes. He gets the two points for coming out of the Derby, but even without the bonus point he would still be the top scoring horse. The Derby win gives him a sharp prep inside 30 days, a stakes win at 3, a graded stakes 1st or 2nd, and a triple digit BRIS figure at 3 (rated 103 in the Derby). However, like Justify he did not race as a juvenile so he misses out on the two factors involving juvenile performance, and finally he is a deep closer in race favoring stalkers. Javier Castellano, who picked up the mount in the Derby, remains in the irons aboard the 8-5 favorite from post 3 for trainer Gustavo Delgado.

Red Route One ranks second. He won the listed Bath House Row Stakes at Oaklawn, a sharp prep and 3-year-old stakes win inside 30 days, where he earned a 98 BRIS figure, 2 points short of par. He also finished second in the Rebel Stakes giving him a 1st or 2nd place finish in a graded stakes. As a juvenile his best race was 3rd in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) with a BRIS figure of 88, well below the 95 par. Like Mage he is also a deep closer. Joel Rosario rides again for trainer Steve Asmussen aboard the 10-1 shot from post 5.

First Mission is the third ranked horse, and like Mage, did not race as a juvenile. He won the Lexington (G3), giving him a sharp prep, a graded stakes win at 3, and a 103 BRIS fig, but off a 35 day layoff when the maximum is 30. However, he of course misses out on all the juvenile factors and he races close to the pace rather than stalks. Regular rider Luis Saez gets the call aboard the 5-2 second choice from the outside 8 stall for trainer Brad Cox. Update: First Mission was a vet scratch on Friday morning due to a left hind leg issue.

The rest of the field scored equal points so are ranked in morning line odds order.

National Treasure marks the return to Triple Crown competition for trainer Bob Baffert, after racing for Tim Yakteen for his last start, a 4th place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Clearly not a sharp prep, short of BRIS par (scored 97), and beyond the 30 day limit. He did finish second in the American Pharoah (G1) where he scored a career best 101 figure, which meets the juvenile requirements of a stakes placing. He also run close to the pace rather than stalks. John Velazquez, who has been aboard for all 5 of his starts, will be in the irons aboard the 4-1 third choice, breaking from the rail.

Blazing Sevens finished third in the Blue Grass (G1), a sharp prep earning him a short-of-par 95 but 35 days out. As a juvenile he won the Champagne Stakes (G1) giving him a graded stakes 1st or 2nd and a stakes placing at 2, but he did not win a stakes at 3. His 2-year-old best figure of 94 when 4th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) is 1 point off par. Finally he is a deep closer, coming from well off the pace in almost every start. Irad Ortiz Jr., who picked up the ride in the Blue Grass, retains the mount aboard the 6-1 fourth choice from post 7 for trainer Chad Brown.

Perform won the Federico Tesio Stakes earning a career best 94 figure in the main local prep for the Preakness (but is run at Laurel, instead of Pimlico). This does qualify as a sharp prep but 35 days out. As a juvenile he did not compete in any stakes and ran a best figure of 82. However, he is the only stalker in the field; BRIS has him as "S 3" and he did come from off the pace in the Tesio, mostly because he stumbled at the start, but ran a classic stalking trip when breaking his maiden in the start before the Tesio so we will award him the point. Feargal Lynch, who picked up the ride in the Tesio, retains the mount aboard the 15-1 shot from post 6 for trainer Shug McGaughey.

Coffeewithchris is the local hope, trying to become the first Maryland-bred since Deputed Testimony (1983) to win the state's signature race. He finished fifth in the Tesio behind Perform, clearly not a sharp prep and beyond 30 days. He did win the Miracle Wood, giving him the required stakes win at 3, but with a BRIS fig of 92, his best as a 3-year-old. At 2 he won the Heft Stakes scoring a 95 figure which did meet that par and giving him a stakes placing that season. He has never run in a graded stakes and he is always on or close to the lead. Regular rider Jaime Rodriguez will be in the irons from post 4 for owner-trainer John Salzman Jr. aboard the 20-1 longshot.

Chase the Chaos is the longest shot on the morning line at 50-1 and since he tied for minimum points he also ranks last here. He won the El Camino Real Derby (career best BRIS of 90) giving him the required stakes win, but comes here off an 8th place effort in the California Derby, not a sharp prep but inside 30 days. As a juvenile he finished second in the Gold Rush Stakes (BRIS 88), meeting the stakes ITM requirement at 2, but his only graded stakes run was a distant 7th in the San Felipe (G2) so he doesn't earn that point either. Finally, he is officially a "presser" by BRIS ("P 0") but his running lines suggest he closes from off the pace, including from 10 lengths back in the El Camino Real Derby, so we cannot consider him a stalker. Maryland-based jockey Sheldon Russell replaces regular rider and Northern California-based Armando Ayuso on Saturday, breaking from post 2 for trainer Ed Moger Jr.

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