Mage, First Mission complete Preakness preparations
A pair of Churchill-based runners completed their major preparations for the May 20 Preakness Stakes Saturday morning.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage’s final training session at Churchill Downs prior to competing in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes didn’t quite go off without a hitch.
The colt eventually galloped about 1 ½ miles but rider J.J. Delgado had to pause his training to fix a back bandage that came loose after the first half-mile.
Following the minor mishap, the Derby winner continued on his way around the racetrack before he returned to Barn 42 where trainer Gustavo Delgado prepared to ship the colt to Baltimore late Saturday afternoon.
“We always wanted to be more cautious before making the decision whether to run in the Preakness after the Derby,” co-owner/assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. said. “It was fair to ask the question. We just wanted to make sure he was giving us all the right signs following the Derby and he is. The fact that he only has four starts and young horses tend to get better after they get a few starts under them, it gives us a bit of confidence.”
The van that will transport Mage to Baltimore was due to arrive at Barn 42 around 2 p.m. ET, and was expected to depart around 4 p.m., according to Steve Hargrave, Churchill Downs’ Senior Director of the Stable Area. The trip is more than 600 miles and usually takes 8 hours and 45 minutes.
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Delgado has only started one horse in the Preakness. In 2019, Delgado ran Bodexpress in the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown where he unseated jockey John Velazquez leaving the gate.
Also Saturday, Godolphin’s First Mission, the winner of the $400,000, Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland completed his major work for the Preakness with a strong five-furlong move in :59.20 early Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Brad Cox, First Mission burst on the scene in mid-March at Fair Grounds where he broke his maiden at second asking by 6 ¾ lengths under jockey Corey Lanerie. In the Lexington, First Mission edged clear of Arabian Lion in the late stages to win by a half-length under jockey Luis Saez.
“He’s lightly raced but I liked what I saw of him all winter and into the Lexington,” Cox said. “He bounced out of it in good shape and he’s got a lot of talent. I’m looking forward to giving him a swing at a Grade I.
“He came into our barn last spring and just needed some extra time to develop. It was nothing major why we gave him time off. We just thought he was a later developing horse. Ever since we brought him back he’s impressed us and been very consistent in his training.”
First Mission, a homebred son of Street Sense, earned a 103 Brisnet Speed Rating for his victory in the Lexington Stakes. In comparison, likely Preakness favorite and Kentucky Derby 149 winner Mage earned the same figure in the “Run for the Roses.”