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Preakness Stakes field takes shape at Pimlico

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Louie Rabaut breaks down the excitement for the Preakness 149 field at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.

I make the trip to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes every year.  It’s a staple of my broadcasting life, and it’s a weekend I always look forward to. 

My wife and I have four kids 14-and-under and while it’s nice to not travel for the Kentucky Derby, I’m always helping someone with their personal plans here in Louisville.  I love all of it, but it’s nice of Baltimore to do the work this week. 

And if you’re a parent, you know some time away is an OK thing, too. 

Thoroughbred racing has some of the oldest traditions in the world, and like many sports before and after it, takes so much of it for granted.  We casually say things like “Preakness 149,” as though 149 years isn’t a huge deal. 

Last’s year’s race wasn’t great.  The Derby winner, Mage, made the trip but as is the case with many colts, he simply didn’t have it that day. 

Trainer Bob Baffert extended his record of Preakness wins to eight with National Treasure, who has since won another Grade 1 race in the Pegasus World Cup.  So, the winner was a worthy one. 

Only one other horse to go on to win a graded stakes out of the field is the Steve Asmussen-trained Red Route One, who won the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, and this year picked off the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic.

This year, however, sets up differently and people are justifiably excited.  We’ll have multiple runners from the Kentucky Derby, including the winner, Mystik Dan, who passed all the typical protocols and will make the trip to Baltimore.

The fourth-place finisher in the race, the Brad Cox-trained Catching Freedom, also will run.  Just Steel, trained by Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas, will compete as huge majority of the top three year-olds try to qualify for the Derby field.

There are several entries who didn’t run in the Derby.  The most notable is from the Baffert barn, as he brings the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Muth to Pimlico. 

Given all the connections and his win over Derby winner Mystik Dan in the Arkansas Derby, he’ll almost certainly go off as the favorite.  Baffert also is bringing the less accomplished Imagination as he is known for shipping multiple horses to a race.  

Among the most interesting newcomers is Tuscan Gold, trained by 2022 Preakness winner Chad Brown.  Brown nearly went back-to-back with new horses last year when Blazing Sevens lost by the slimmest of margins. 

Brown is so confident in this colt that he scratched him out of the Grade 3 Peter Pan this weekend to run him in Baltimore, despite the likelihood of him being the favorite in Queens.

There are several horses with Maryland ties who will run.  Copper Tax was the winner of the automatic Preakness qualifier in the Federico Tesio Stakes; the winner of that race last won the Preakness in 1983. 

Uncle Heavy, trained by Robert Reid, Jr., ran his first three races at Parx outside of Philly.  He tried to qualify for the Derby via Turfway Park and Keeneland, but was unsuccessful.

The final entrant, Mugatu, missed the Kentucky Derby field by one spot.  It makes sense that trainer Jeff Engler would ship him to the Preakness after the disappointment of not making the Derby field.

Happy Hour podcast

You can find our most recent episode here, as we welcome three great Maryland guests: track announcer Dave Rodman; Kali Francois, desk and paddock reporter for the Maryland Jockey Club; and Scott Wykoff, a veteran of Baltimore radio at WBAL-AM.

What’s next

The draw happens Monday, and we’ll know much more about the setup of the race then.

Our radio coverage from Pimlico will air Friday from 7-9 p.m. PT and on Preakness Saturday 9-11 a.m. on ESPN Louisville.  They have an easy-to-use online stream, and you can stream the station on your smart speaker, as well.

If you’re going to the Preakness, we’ll have a handicapping seminar at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Friday night.

Mailbag time

Any questions for me?  Send them to TSThorseracing@gmail.com.  I’ll answer as many as I can, whether here or directly via email.  Happy Preakness!