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2023 Preakness Stakes predictions: Three horses worth backing

Odds, picks, and predictions for the 2023 Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 20.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 06: Mage #8, ridden by jockey Javier Castellano crosses the finish line to win the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 06, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 06: Mage #8, ridden by jockey Javier Castellano crosses the finish line to win the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 06, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)Read moreMichael Reaves / Getty Images

When it comes to the Triple Crown races, everybody from diehard horse racing fans to casual observers will be watching, so naturally, we have 2023 Preakness Stakes picks & predictions for our loyal readers.

Horse racing is in a strange spot entering the 147th running of the Preakness. During a 10-day stretch before the Kentucky Derby, seven horses died at Churchill Downs, and another five were scratched from the race, including the favorite, Forte.

It was already a small field for the Preakness, and then First Mission was scratched. As it stands, seven horses will run the race at Pimlico, including only one horse that ran the Derby.

It’s a small, weak field. But the race must go on, and there’s still gambling to be done.

Of course, the one holdover from the Kentucky Derby is Mage, the Derby winner. He’s the heavy favorite considering his ideal No. 3 pole position and the relatively weak field.

Admittedly, I like Mage in this race. I think he’s the most likely winner.

However, from a betting value perspective, there are two other horses I’m dying to bet on. So, I’ve built a three-bet card for the Preakness Stakes based on my top three horses.

Odds courtesy of FanDuel, current at time of writing and subject to change.

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The Favorite: No. 3 Mage (8-5)

There isn’t much to break down about Mage. You watched him rally from a dozen lengths to win a wide-open Derby, and you probably know he finished second to Forte in the Florida Derby a month earlier.

So, you know that Mage has elite closing speed, even if he often struggles to break. He posted a 105 Beyer speed figure in the Derby, the best single-race mark among horses in the Preakness field (and it’s not particularly close).

Mage is the class of a classless field, so to speak. He’s the rightful favorite to win the Preakness even if only because the rest of the field is rather weak (especially after First Mission’s scratch).

Mage just defeated a much-more difficult field at the Derby and will face fewer obstacles on Saturday. It should be cut and dry.

However, the only favorite to win the Preakness in the last seven runnings was Justify in 2018. And the short turnaround from the Derby is always somewhat troublesome.

Mage also is too chalky to bet straight. However, I am looking to include him in some exotics on race day.

Another potential winner: No. 1 National Treasure (4-1)

There are so many reasons to like National Treasure in the Preakness.

First, he’s a Bob Baffert-trained horse. Baffert has won the Preakness seven times.

Second, John Velazquez is riding. Velazquez is a Hall of Fame jockey, and he’s looking for his first-ever Preakness win.

Third, the pair will be running on the rail with blinkers on, and they’ll likely have the early lead in a race devoid of opening speed. Of course, he doesn’t have the same closing speed, but this will be a “come-and-get-me” sprinting race for National Treasure, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go wire-to-wire (Velazquez has won that way before).

With First Mission scratched, National Treasure has the second-highest single-race Beyer speed figure in the race (97). He flashed top-end speed during a win at Del Mar last year and recently posted a fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby.

I’ll be betting on National Treasure in some form, perhaps as a straight win bet or in a trifecta.

Best long-shot value horse: No. 6 Perform (15-1)

Perform is in great form. He recently switched to longer races and saw immediate results, as he enters the Preakness off consecutive two-turn wins at Laurel Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

He’s also trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who owns wins at the Derby and the Belmont Stakes but is still searching for that elusive Preakness victory. He’s renowned for his patience with younger horses, and this one looks primed to hit his ceiling.

Perform posted his best-ever Beyer speed figure in his last race (85), which is a plus. However, what ultimately should win him this race is his stamina – he’ll be stalking for most of this race but has shown the poise and maturity to close after running long distances.

At 15-to-1, Perform is a must in any exotics. I might bet him outright, or at least to win-place-show.

My Preakness Card ($20 budget)

  1. $2 win-place-show: No. 6 Perform ($6 total)

  2. $2 win-place-show: No. 1 National Treasure ($6 total)

  3. $1 box trifecta: No. 3 Mage / No. 1 National Treasure / No. 6 Perform ($6 total)

  4. $2 left for the wager of your choice!

Other Notes

No. 5 Red Route One posted a solid Beyer speed figure last race (92) and is known for a good closing kick, so he could be on Mage’s pace late. He’s not my favorite, but I don’t blame you if you like this horse.

No. 4 Coffee with Chris has serious stamina and closing issues, and his Beyer speed figure has dropped in three straight races. He’s a toss.

No. 2 Chase the Chaos is just happy to be here. He should be a comfortable last-place finisher and is also a toss.

I am still trying to figure out what to make of No. 7 Blazing Sevens, who has shown zero improvements as a three-year-old. He doesn’t have great opening speed, and his two-turn closing kick has looked mediocre in recent outings. I’ll likely toss him, as I think he’s overvalued because of his “high-profile” connections to Irad Ortiz Jr. and Chad Brown.

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