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Even though Mage will attempt to be the 2023 Triple Crown winner after capturing the first leg with a victory in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, figuring out the odds for the Preakness Stakes can be a maddening exercise.
Forte, who was the morning-line favorite at the start of the day, was scratched in the morning due to a bruised foot that led to concerns from state veterinarians.
Repole Stable @RepoleStable
The hardest adversity often leads to the greatest moments of your life. Keep fighting, keep going, never surrender, never give up, never stop, keep grinding. The toughest situations build the strongest people & horses in the end.
I’m so sorry Forte 😢💙🧡🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/jl9pmJclVD
The absence of Forte was the tip of the iceberg in what has been a brutal week for horses at Churchill Downs. He was the fifth horse to be scratched from the race due to injuries or illness. Seven horses died following injuries at the track.
It’s unclear if Forte will be ready for the Preakness in two weeks. Even if the three-year-old colt can come back, his body may not be ready for the grind of running 9.5 furlongs after not competing since the Florida Derby on April 1.
Mage made a stunning rally down the final stretch to pass Two Phil’s for the biggest victory of his career. Jockey Javier Castellano earned his first career win at this event after turning pro in 1996.
Castellano’s ability to keep Mage close to the front of the pack for most of the race before unleashing him for one big push at the end was a brilliant strategy.
Going against a potentially loaded field at the Preakness will be a difficult task for Mage if he competes. This was only his second win in four races this year, though he came close to holding off Forte for the top spot at the Florida Derby.
Angel of Empire could command a lot of betting attention heading into Baltimore after finishing third on Saturday. The sire of 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire was the No. 2 betting favorite in the Preakness future wager at 9-1 (bet $100 to win $900) on April 30 behind Forte.
Those odds improved to 4-1, best in the field, on Saturday after Forte was unable to compete.
Like his father before him, Angel of Empire won the Arkansas Derby on April 1. He also had four straight top-two finishes coming into the Kentucky Derby.
Tapit Trice, who had the second-best odds (9-2) after Angel of Empire, is a tantalizing contender. After a third-place finish in his first career race in November, he won four straight events to build momentum coming into Churchill Downs.
The Blue Grass Stakes was a huge test for Tapit Trice that he passed in spectacular fashion. He found a second wind down the stretch to cross the finish line just ahead of Verifying to earn an automatic entry in the Kentucky Derby.
Some early stumbles out of the gate at the Blue Grass Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby are a cause for concern, as is a disappointing seventh-place showing on Saturday, but if jockey Luis Saez can get Trice off the block clean, the horse could fare much better on May 20.
Two horses that didn’t compete at Churchill Downs that secured spots at Pimlico thanks to victories earlier this season are Red Route One and Chase the Chaos.
Both of those thoroughbreds have only had intermittent success in their racing careers up to this point. Red Route One finished sixth in the Arkansas Derby before winning the Bath House Row three weeks later.
Chase the Chaos finished seventh at San Felipe on March 4 and eighth at the California Derby on April 29 after back-to-back wins.