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Ahead of 2023 Preakness, Kentucky Derby winner Mage’s team settles into routine

Kentucky Derby Winner Mage ahead of the Preakness
Javier Castellano, atop Mage, reacts in the winner’s circle after winning the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

BALTIMORE (AP) — Preakness favorite Mage took to the track Tuesday for his most significant workout since winning the Kentucky Derby as his team focused on finding their routine following a spate of horse deaths at Churchill Downs that overshadowed the race.

The victory capped a tumultuous stretch in which seven horses died of various circumstances at the Louisville track over a 10-day span. A Derby contender was one of those fatalities, another was scratched and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. was suspended for two deaths in his barn. Another horse died racing Sunday to make it a total of eight at Churchill Downs in under three weeks.

The $3 million Derby itself went off without incident on May 6. Mage opened this week as the 8-5 favorite to win the Preakness in Baltimore on Saturday and keep alive the possibility of a Triple Crown champion while questions swirl about what happened in Kentucky.

Co-owner Ramiro Restrepo, assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr., and his father have insisted their focus remains on Mage, who seems happy and healthy.

“Everything is just routine,” Restrepo said Tuesday. “That’s the most important thing right now, just keeping him on his routine. He’s on schedule. He’s feeling good. Couldn’t be happier.”

Mage’s team has settled into a relatively quiet rhythm at Pimlico amid the noise around the sport and has been largely insulated from controversy ahead of the 2023 Preakness. No one around Mage had no connection to any of the five horses who suffered fatal musculoskeletal injuries or Joseph’s, who died of unknown causes to prompt the suspension.

Mage ahead of Preakness
Kentucky Derby winner Mage arrives at Pimlico Race Course early Sunday, May 14, 2023 to prepare for this weekend’s Preakness Stakes as trainer Gustavo Delgado, Sr., right, looks on. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher was also suspended last week in New York in the aftermath of Forte failing a postrace drug test last summer at Saratoga. Forte was the Derby favorite before being scratched hours before by Kentucky racing officials who expressed concern about a bruised right front foot and later put him on the vet’s list.

With Forte not at the Preakness, Mage is favored in a field of eight horses that also includes Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure and Brad Cox’s First Mission. They’ve also arrived at Pimlico, but Mage basically had the track to himself for a 1 1/2-mile gallop Tuesday.

“The track itself being so quiet, a few horses at the same time, that helps,” Gustavo Delgado Jr. said. “He thinks it’s some sort of spa for him at the moment. That’s good.”

Delgado said Mage continues to look “professional” on the track. Restrepo said nothing prep-wise is being done differently than the Derby, when Mage won as a 15-1 long shot.

“He’s just sticking to the program,” he said. “The horse is just a really smart horse and is just doing everything right right now.”

Preakness Odds

Post position Horse Odds
1 National Treasure +400
2 Chase the Chaos +5000
3 Mage +160
4 Coffeewithchris +2000
5 Red Route One +1000
6 Perform +1500
7 Blazing Sevens +600
8 First Mission +250

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