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John Velazquez celebrates aboard National Treasure after the 2023 Preakness
The $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) is the second jewel in the Triple Crown. After First Mission scratched on Friday, a field of 7 three-year-olds contested the 148th renewal of this 1 3/16 mile classic around two turns at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Conditions were typical for mid May, with dark cloudy skies rolling in by post time and a temperature of 72 degrees, after a mostly sunny afternoon. Officials did not announce an attendance figure for Saturday alone, instead announcing that a combined 65,000 people attended over the 2 days (Black-Eyed Susan Friday and Preakness Saturday), with the numbers also including those attending the InfieldFest featuring Bruno Mars.
As expected Kentucky Derby (G1) winner and Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Mage was sent off as the 7-5 favorite. In to challenge him included 11-4 second choice National Treasure, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) after finishing third in the Sham Stakes (G3), and 5-1 third choice Blazing Sevens, third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
National Treasure leads down in the stretch.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 National Treasure Velazquez 7.80 4.80 2.60 7 Blazing Sevens Ortiz Jr. 5.00 2.80 3 Mage Castellano 2.40 Winning Time: 1:54.12 $1 Exacta 1-7 15.90 $1 Trifecta 1-7-3 24.20 $1 Superfecta 1-7-3-5 72.40 $1 Super High Five 1-7-3-5-2 164.90 $2 BES-Preakness Double 10-1 93.40
Left: National Treasure heads to the winner's circle with his flower blanket. Winning jockey John Velazquez, celebrating his first Preakness win said, "Everything I asked him to do, got a good break, pumped it outside a little bit, just like the other ones, think what I'm going to do, and got to the turn and went to the inside, saved some ground and got to the backstretch. Saved some ground on the second turn, and when Irad started moving in the 3/8 pole, I stayed in there. But came to the quarter pole and made sure I put a little pressure on him. And he fought the whole way. From the 3/16 pole home, he put in a really good fight. He did not want to let that horse pass. And that's what champions do. He got it done for me.".
Right: The trophy celebration. Winning trainer Bob Baffert, celebrating his 8th Preakness win said, " I feel like Nick Saban.. I like those five-star recruits. That's my whole secret. This game, there's a lot of twists and turns, and you've just got to get through it. This is how we're rewarded. The fans got a great race. Unfortunately, they would have liked to see the Derby winner win, because it helps going for the Triple Crown. I've been there. I've been there for the disappointments. It was a great finish for me. Very emotional."
National Treasure leaves the winner's circle. Baffert added, "I really couldn't get into the race. When he hit the wire, that's when I started enjoying the race. The rest of my day, you just couldn't enjoy the day. Once he hit the wire, it just brought us back. You have to earn these races. For Johnny to get his first, I was thinking more about Johnny. I loved (the early fractions). If we could make the easy lead and just cruise around there. We knew he would love the distance. Once I saw the half-mile fraction, there was no excuses. That horse came to him. I thought he was going to go by us. But our horse dug in. It was a great race. I was cheering, like, 'Please make this happen for Johnny.'"
Right: Winning jockey John Velazquez added, "What a moment. All I can say, when you ride your best and you try to ride your best and the horse responds to everything you want to do, that's all it takes, the horse giving you everything they can, and that's what you hope for, and he did."
Left: National Treasure walks over before the race. Baffert added, "This day was like a rollercoaster. Started out great. Then things went bad. When we lose a horse, it's tough on everybody. We grieve. But then for this horse to come back, to pull us out of that dark area that we were in...that's why I love those horses. They try so hard. It looked like he wouldn't let that horse pass him. He fought. He dug in. And Johnny said he didn't want to pull up."
Right: National Treasure in the post parade. Velazquez added, "Well, it wasn't really a plan, but like I said, I want to get him a really good rhythm, and I knew it wasn't a lot of speed, but I saw Irad warming up his horse, and I knew he was going to put pressure to the other horse with a little bit of speed. And that's why when I broke okay and I went towards the middle of the track to make sure I put him over there and if they want to go any faster, let them go in front. Just a little strategy. If it works, it works. And it worked today."
Left: National Treasure leads first time by. Tom Ryan of winning co-owner SF Racing said, "We discovered National Treasure in Saratoga last year. It was Fasig-Tipton. He was hip 13, as Sol said earlier. And Donato loved the horse. John Moynihan loved the horse. He was a horse that met all the criteria immediately. It was interesting, we brought Bob to see the horse, and he literally took one glance and walked away. I was like, 'He doesn't like him.' And we walked around the corner, and he said, 'I love him.' We were very fortunate to buy the horse. Very happy. Look, the same breeder that bred Authentic bred this horse, and we got beat in the Preakness with Authentic, and we won today."
Right: National Treasure gets hosed off before returning to the barn. Winning co-owner Sol Kumin said, "It's great. This is my favorite race of the year. I went to college here in Baltimore, and first time I ever went to racetrack was Preakness Day, sneaking into the infield in college. This is always my favorite day of the year, and obviously I'm really happy for this group. It's a great group. In this sport, there's lots of ups and downs. And to be part of Johnny's first win is special. To be part of Bob's record-breaking win is great. And just to be part of this whole crew, I feel really happy to be here."
Left: Second place finisher Blazing Sevens returns after the race. Trainer Chad Brown said, "I did not want to be in the middle of the racetrack the whole way, but I don't think Irad (Ortiz Jr.) had much choice. The horse just got a very, very wide trip and he came up just short. I think the amount of ground lost probably cost him. I was a little worried because he was so wide the whole way. I thought maybe it might take the starch out of him a little bit, and it did. He had the outside post and I think Irad made the best decisions that he could. I don't see what he could have done differently. I knew the race was void of speed, but I thought he would have a little bit more pressure."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Mage walks over before the race. Gustavo Delgado Jr., assistant to his father Gustavo Sr. said, "The pace was hard. Don't take anything from the winner. They beat us. That's it. He ran a good race to be third. If you take him farther back (off a slow pace), the closer, maybe he doesn't respond. No speed in the race. The horses in front were going easy. Those horses, you don't beat them (with that pace). They always fight. They fight when they go fast; imagine when they go so slow. They rebreak. We took the shot; it was worth the shot, and we got beat. He's lightly raced; we'll see how he comes back. We'll regroup, take our time and see what's next to him. Nobody is going to take the Derby from him."
The field shortly after the start of the 148th Preakness Stakes. Jockey Javier Castellano aboard Mage (3) said, "The way it developed, the way it unfolded, it was a disadvantage for the horses coming from behind. I liked my trip, I had a beautiful trip. I didn't want to be too far back because I knew there would not be a lot of speed in the race. Unfortunately, they went slow, and I could not catch those horses. He broke so well out of the gate; this was the best break he has had in a long, long time. He put himself in good position and followed every step along the way. We had a beautiful dream trip. We stalked behind those two horses, saved all the ground on the first turn, and when I asked him from the quarter pole, I could not catch those horses."
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