If Mage Wins Preakness, Forte Is Last Triple Crown Hurdle At Belmont

Written By Dave Bontempo on May 17, 2023
Mage Preakness Stakes vs. Forte for Triple Crown, from playfl.com

Florida bettors and the nation’s horse-racing fans have been lured into the sport’s compelling major plot. It’s all about when Mage takes the stage.

And that’s Saturday, at 6:50 p.m., in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s when the Kentucky Derby winner, whose career was honed at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, seeks the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown.

Florida horse race betting fans can access the race in all the usual forms. There is also an excellent series of undercard stakes events both to bolster one’s appreciation of the sport and gain a sense of how the track is playing.

Pimlico is notoriously speed-favoring, an element that plays into the plight of Mage, a horse who rallies.

Favorable level of Preakness competition for Mage

Preakness Stakes developments tumbled into place beautifully for Mage, who became a 15-1 Kentucky Derby winner on May 6. He is the only Kentucky Derby graduate going in Saturday’s Preakness, dropping his betting odds to 8-5 in Monday’s draw.

Derby runner-up Two Phil’s was not put into in the Preakness. Nor was third-place Angel Of Empire. Forte, who nipped Mage in a memorable Florida Derby rally, is still sidelined because of the bruise that removed him from the Derby.

Nope, it’s Mage versus seven others in a race he should by all rights win.

Nothing is guaranteed in horse racing, of course, except the expectation that Mage defeats a lesser field.

Be sure to monitor Mage’s odds

Odds won’t be official until post time, per pari-mutuel regulations. But it’s safe to believe Mage’s value will shrink if the price goes much below this. He’s approaching what I call TFN territory (Thanks for Nothing) on the betting line. Gamblers will be tempted to dismiss the win line in favor of exotics if he drifts down from here.

Mixed emotions for bettors, fans over Forte scratch

Because Forte was placed on a veterinary watch list after the Derby, he wasn’t allowed in the Preakness, by rule. That caught many people by surprise, because the Forte-Mage rematch was forecast after the Derby when in fact there was no chance it could actually happen.

The latest understanding is that Forte should be fine and run in the June 10 Belmont Stakes. And that he will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, the brilliant jockey who guided  him in the Florida Derby and who captured the Gulfstream Park championship meet riding title.

If that delayed rematch happens, it will be far bigger than the one projected for the Preakness.

Can you imagine that drama, Sunshine State bettors? An omen of a Triple Crown sweep duel may have played out in the final 50 yards of the Florida Derby on April 1. That’s where Forte got up to nip Mage with one of the finest, well-orchestrated rides Ortiz has ever delivered. He patiently swung Forte to the outside and timed a furious stretch run that caught Mage just before the wire.

For a Mage-Forte discussion to matter next week, Mage has work to do now.

Mage looks strong in Tuesday workout

He galloped 1 1/2 miles at Pimlico on Tuesday. According to the Daily Racing Form, he covered 3 furlongs in just over 41 seconds, a considerable pace for how far he was going.

Mage was one of four Preakness horses to train at Pimlico on Tuesday.

National Treasure, First Mission and Blazing Sevens also galloped.

The rest of the field is arriving throughout the week.

Handicapping Mage’s chances in the Preakness Stakes

Here’s a look at Mage’s prospects in the Preakness.

Mage drew the 3 post in a field of eight

He may be outgunned early by National Treasure on the rail and Coffeewithchris to his immediate outside. The key for him in this 1 3/16-mile distance is that there is less room to work with than in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby.

And there may be less speed to chase down.

Mage bettors want to see him mid-pack early, not as far back as he was in the Kentucky Derby.

First Mission is the second choice at 5-2

This is a good, strong horse who captured the Lexington Stakes with a definitive burst of speed. He may have the early positioning jump on Mage heading for home. One thing that’s not being discussed much is that Mage won the Derby and First Mission won a minor Derby prep.

There may be an over-reaction to First Mission’s victory, but at least this angle keeps Mage’s odds a little higher for his bettors.

On paper, he’s one of the three best in here and breaks from the outside 8 post.

Bob Baffert is back, with National Treasure, 4-1

The Hall of Fame trainer would become the first to nab eight Preakness triumphs. National Treasure is certainly not the best horse handled by the man who guided the past two Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

“But don’t let that fool you,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayFL this week. “This horse was injured and has been coming back. If Baffert brings him to the Preakness from Florida, that is saying something.”

Avello’s company launched the racing app DK Horse in 12 states, including Florida, in March. Bettors can download the app, watch races, view exacta prices and make wagers, among other aspects of the app.

Other Preakness horses

Red Route One, 10-1, is an entertaining late runner who, if he raced in Florida, would fall behind as far as Georgia before making a furious late run. This style doesn’t suit him here, but he’s entered anyway. His chances rise if the track becomes wet.

Perform, 15-1, has a similar running style. He rallied from nowhere to steal a minor stakes in Maryland. Owners are taking a shot that he found something.

Blazing Sevens was a good third in the Blue Grass Stakes and makes sense to hit the board here at 6-1.

Coffeewithchris has peaked at being in the money for low-level stakes events in Maryland. A candidate to take the early lead and go as far as he can. He’s 20-1.

Chase the Chaos is 50-1 because he may well be chasing this field. Was not in the top tier at the San Felipe Stakes, a Derby prep, in March.

Good luck hitting the Preakness.

Bettors will soon know if Mage will corner the horse-racing media market for the next three weeks.

Photo by AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer. He writes NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City, iGaming Player and others. For PlayFL, he will focus on the world of Florida horse racing. 

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