Mage is the rage throughout South Florida and the horse-racing world as the Preakness Stakes descend.
Florida bettors want to see if the Kentucky Derby winner — whose career they watched unfold at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach — can make it a double.
He is, as of Thursday, slated to enter the Preakness May 20 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The draw is Monday.
To commemorate his entry into the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, here are several Mage takeaways for Florida horse race betting enthusiasts. The first three regard the potential field and logical betting favorites for the Preakness itself. The next three involve his evolution.
Mage betting analysis for Preakness Stakes
We won’t see Forte-Mage rematch in the Preakness
Forte was scratched from the Derby with a bruise and won’t be allowed to go in the Preakness either. So much for the 1-2 Florida Derby finishers hooking up in what had been described as a dream matchup.
The horses could meet in the Belmont Stakes.
Mage has the highest Beyer at this distance
The Beyer Speed Figure combines a horse’s time with the speed of the track surface and the overall track record to produce an indicator of talent. Anything over 100 is exceptional and what’s usually expected of Triple Crown contender.
Mage ran a 105 in the Derby. He nipped Two Phil’s, who had the same number, and Angel of Empire, at 104. These are the top three Beyer efforts at the distance for 3-year-olds this year.
But none of Mage’s chief rivals graduate to this race.
The closest Beyer to his in the Preakness is 98, which belongs to First Mission, who has generated a buzz.
Some Derby graduates, new shooters look likely to run
First Mission headlines the “New Shooters” gunning for Mage and may become the second betting favorite. He wasn’t in the Derby and has only raced three times. But the last was a good one as he captured the Lexington Stakes.
He beat Disarm, who later finished fourth in the Derby, by several lengths. With that as a barometer, he could hit the board at Preakness if he can stretch from 1 1/16 to 3/16 miles.
Here are some others listed as probable for the Preakness. This is a fluid situation and won’t be known officially until the draw.
- Confidence Game, 10th in the Derby, appears slated for Pimlico. The shorter distance may help him. He ran strong until the final turn and faded.
- Red Route One, a deep late closer, is listed as likely. He is the deepest of deep closers and this distance is not ideal for him. He would be dangerous, however, in the slop, where he’s run two excellent races this year.
- National Treasure, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, is trained by Bob Baffert, who is tied for the most Preakness crowns with seven. Baffert has saddled the past two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.
- Blazing Sevens, who ran behind Forte in the Juvenile last year, may run.
- So could Perform, who has two straight victories, including a minor stake, in his past two outings.
Mage’s journey to Triple Crown hopeful
South Florida bettors saw Mage first
All three of his races before the Derby occurred at Gulfstream Park.
His progression was at first subtle, and then monumental.
It was subtle when he triumphed in a 7-furlong debut. Progress remained subtle when he was then ambitiously placed in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He was up against Forte, whom had captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the prior November at Keeneland.
So, when Forte blew the field away at 1-2, fourth-place Mage was dismissed as just another horse losing by several lengths to Forte.
What gamblers noticed looking back at that race forecast his progress to monumental.
Bettors accounted for Mage’s bad racing luck
A few Gulfstream railbirds picked up something in the Fountain of Youth stretch drive. Mage had been shut off heading for home. He would not have beaten Forte anyway, but the gamblers insisted Mage should not be overlooked in the Florida Derby.
On race day, they were joined by the masses. At 4-1, Mage was a solid betting choice behind Forte, 1-9.
And Mage nearly won the race. Coming from the 4 post, he stalked the pace and got the jump on Forte, who was in post 11. It took a herculean effort by Forte to run down Mage in the final strides. These two were much the best.
Overlooked in the Derby
One of the Kentucky Derby handicapping angles surrounding Mage was his massive improvement against Forte, the presumed Derby favorite.
But he was let go at 15-1 because of his penchant for slow starts and the colossal 20-horse field. A slow starter in the Derby rarely has a chance.
He was in the back of the Derby pack, but was kept along the rail.
That enabled a ground-saving trip. Mage also got a blistering front-end pace to close on. The pacesetters backed up, Mage got the positioning along the rail ahead of Angel of Empire for the stretch drive and fended him off.
Mage became the 25th graduate of the Florida Derby to cross the line first in the Kentucky Derby. The Florida Derby has by far been the best Derby prep.
Don’t blink, the Preakness will soon be here. Bettors await Mage taking the heartbeat of Florida with him up to Pimlico.