For the first time in 75 years, only one horse from the Kentucky Derby will race in the Preakness Stakes.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage will look to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive as the 8-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $1.65 million, Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
The last time only one Kentucky Derby contender went on to the Preakness was 1948, when Citation beat three new shooters in the middle jewel on his way to winning the Triple Crown.
While there are only eight horses in this year’s Preakness, Mage does face several worthy foes in First Mission, National Treasure and Blazing Sevens.
Preakness post position draw, odds: Kentucky Derby winner Mage favored in 2023 field at Pimlico
Here’s a look at why each horse can and can’t win the Preakness — many serious, a few tongue in cheek and one destined to be right.
Why he can win: He’s added blinkers and should go straight to the lead from that inside post position. If no one else pushes him early, he’s a threat to wire the field. Trainer Bob Baffert has a record seven Preakness victories.
Why he can’t: He’s never been worse than fourth in five career races, but he also hasn’t won since that maiden score in September. Can he take a step forward, or is this who he is?
Why he can win: What are the odds the other seven get stuck in the gate?
Why he can’t: One career race on dirt — the Grade 2 San Felipe — and he finished seventh out of nine. His Beyer Speed Figures have dropped each of his last two races.
3. Mage (8-5)
Why he can win: His runner-up finish to Forte in the Florida Derby showed promise, and he took another step forward by winning the Kentucky Derby. “So far, so good” has been the mantra of the Delgados since that victory, and all signs point to another impressive performance in Baltimore.
Why he can’t: We’ve seen it over and over: Horses run huge races in the Kentucky Derby and then bounce two weeks later at Pimlico. He’s prone to bad breaks from the gate. Will it catch up to him here?
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Why he can win: The Maryland bred is the only horse in the field with a victory at Pimlico, though it came via a disqualification last May. He’ll be at or near the lead early.
Why he can’t: Fifth-place finishers in the Federico Tesio don’t win the Preakness. National Treasure will wear him down early up front.
Why he can win: Ran in six straight graded stakes before the Bath House Row victory, so he’s plenty seasoned. If the front-runners tire, he’s the most likely to be passing them late.
Why he can’t: About those six straight graded stakes: He went 0 for 6 with a couple of runner-up showings. There are obvious pace-setters in the field, but it’s not expected to be blazing enough to benefit him at the end.
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Why he can win: Federico Tesio winner was supplemented into the Preakness for $150,000, so the connections must see something they like. Finished just 5 ½ lengths behind Mage in a maiden special weight in January at Gulfstream Park and could be improving.
Why he can’t: Much like Red Route One, he’s a closer who may not get the hot early pace he needs.
Why he can win: Trainer Chad Brown has won the Preakness twice with horses who skipped the Kentucky Derby — Cloud Computing (2017) and Early Voting (2022) — and could do it again with Blazing Sevens. Back-to-back bullet workouts at Belmont Park entering this.
Why he can’t: One of the nation’s top 2-year-olds, he’s 0 for 2 this year and couldn’t keep up with Tapit Trice or Verifying when finishing third in the Blue Grass. His best days may be behind him.
Why he can win: Has the perfect running style to get the jump on National Treasure coming for home. Trainer Brad Cox was beaming about this horse’s potential after winning the Grade 3 Lexington.
Why he can’t: With just three career races under his belt, it feels like he might need one more big one before knocking off the more experienced contenders in this field.
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; email@example.com; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Preakness Stakes 2023 horses: What to know about favorites at Pimlico