My 2023 Preakness Betting Picks, Surveying The Field And Avoiding Mage

Written By Jack Flaherty on May 18, 2023 - Last Updated on April 1, 2024
Preakness Stakes Ohio Horse Betting

The 2023 Preakness Stakes is upon us. The 148th run for “The Black Eyed Susans” at Pimlico Park in Baltimore will take place on Saturday, May 20. 

Kentucky Derby-winner Mage enters the Preakness as the favorite after winning the 18-horse Derby field in style. Mage drew the No. 3 gate for the Preakness and is currently an 8-5 favorite. The biggest competition will come from No. 1 National Treasure (4-1) after the scratch of No. 8 First Mission, which was 5-2 when scratched on Friday.

Mage has a real shot at winning the second leg of the Triple Crown, setting off a dramatic Belmont Stakes in June.

The Ohio horse betting market, of course, will offer plenty of ways to bet on the 2023 Preakness Stakes. Let’s first take a closer look at the race and this year’s field.

Ohio prep for the Preakness

I lived in Columbus for five years — five great years — while I worked under Ben Martin and the International Division for the Anchor Hocking Corporation in Lancaster, Ohio. I traveled a lot, but when I was home in late winter or early spring, I would spend my Saturdays at Beulah Park race track and enjoy the simulcast.

It was a small but comfortable place, the simulcast at Beulah. I can’t ever recall ever being there when a live race was going on. I was always attracted to the Kentucky Derby prep races, watching the youngins make efforts to earn points to get into the Big Dance.

The sport of horse racing must be in my blood. My grandfather, Papa, attended Suffolk Downs every day during live meets. Then, my dad, a South-end Boston mick, got himself invited to The Jockey Club at Belmont Race Track as the guest of Charlie Sckoog, the owner of the advertising agency and who handled my father’s corporate account.

Then we were off. My father could not tell a peanut from a gelding but knew how to fake it. He pretended to read the program, which he really couldn’t, not with all the fine print and his store-bought reading glasses, and would bark out a few picks to his kids and send them away to make his bets. And then resumed smoking his cigar. I don’t think he ever won a race, but he sure looked good doing it.

But I have won horse races, and here are my picks for the upcoming Preakness.

2023 Preakness quick facts

  • Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
  • When: Saturday, May 20 (Race 13, 6:50 p.m. post time)
  • Nickname: “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans”
  • Length: 1 3/16 mile
  • Surface: dirt
  • Record: 1.53 flat (Secretariat, 1973)

Preakness field, odds, jockeys

I list the post number below with the horse, trainer and odds, as well as the results of their last race. Next to the horse’s name, I list a Best Beyer number. This is a rating for the horse’s fastest race thus far. A 100 Beyer is really good, an 83 Beyer is not.

Post
Horse (Best Beyer #)Trainer
Last Race
Odds
1National Treasure (97)
Baffert
4th Santa Anita
4-1
2Chase the Chaos (83)
Mogan
8th Cal Derby
50-1
3Mage (105)Delagato
1st Kentucky Derby
8-5
4Coffeewithchris (88)Salzman
5th Tesio Stakes
20-1
5Red Route One (92)Asmussen
1st Bath House
12-1
6Perform (85)McGaughey
1st Tesio Stakes
15-1
7Blazing Sevens (93)Brown
3rd BlueGrass
8-1
8First Mission (98) SCRATCHEDCox1st Lexington5-2

Previewing the Preakness field

Horse racing would love nothing more than for No. 3 Mage to win the Preakness to set up a potentially great Belmont in New York in June. A deserving morning odds favorite, Mage posted a 105 Beyer rating in his impressive Derby victory. In this limited field of eight horses, I cannot support betting the heavy favorite. I will keep my bets focused on one colt. Passing on Mage. 

I have bet on Brad Cox-trained ponies all spring and wasn’t planning to jump of the cart now. First Mission (No. 8) is my boy, so it is a huge disappointment to see him scratched due to due to a left hind issue. Loved his father, Street Sense. First Mission seems like a late bloomer, and his pedigree screams distance. He was two-for-two on two turns, coming off of a win in the G3 Lexington Stakes in April.

As for the remaining field…

Post 1 | National Treasure (4-1) | Jockey: John Velazquez

National Treasure marks Bob Baffert’s return to the Triple Crown after having to sit out of the Derby. This colt finished third in the Juvenile BC last year but hasn’t progressed as expected. Many expect Treasure to get out front from the 1-post and set a good pace. A quicker race pace could be a plus for Mage.

Post 2 | Chase the Chaos (50-1) | Jockey: Sheldon Russell

Chase the Chaos won El Camino Real to get him into the Preakness, but that was a while ago. He’s a long, long shot for a reason. Not sure why optimistic Ed (Moger) was keeping him in California training on synthetic Tapeta. Does he know the Preakness is run on dirt?

Post 3 | Mage (8-5) | Jockey: Javier Castellano

The Derby winner is a big favorite here, but his winning tickets will not pay much. Despite his impressive Derby showing and quest for the Triple Crown, we look elsewhere for bets.

Post 4 | Coffeewithchris (20-1) | Jockey: Jaime Rodriguez

Coffee might want to stick his nose out front at some point early, but he won’t last. His best Beyer of 88 was a one-turn spring; not build for distance. 

Post 5 | Red Route One (12-1) | Jockey: Joel Rosario

A decent horse that made some impressive closing efforts in the stretch recently. Won at Oaklawn last, but the horse is not very fast. He would need a quick early pace to have a shot at running down tired ponies late. And I doubt he will get that, so I’ll pass.

Post 6 | Perform (15-1) | Jockey: Feargal Lynch

Perform’s owners put up a $150,000 nomination fee to enter him in the Preakness after his recent win at Laurel in the Tesio Stakes. Personally, I’m not interested in betting him. But I would love to see Shug (McGaughey) win. If someone is looking for a decent long shot pony who just won his last Maryland start, then I have seen worse bets. 

Post 7 | Blazing Sevens (8-1) | Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

On paper, a real contender with trainer Chad Brown having won two recent Preakness Stakes and top-jock Irad the Younger on board. But I don’t see it. Sevens had his chance in the Blue Grass Stakes with the race right in front of him late, but he never made a serious move. I’ll be looking elsewhere.

My 2023 Preakness picks and betting strategy

I had planned to put my money on the nose of First Mission. $100 to win. Keep it simple, no place or show bets.

Instead, I’ll play around with some trifecta key bets — that might work. A tri-key is an economical way to play a trifecta. You key one horse up top and box two or three other horses to come in second and third. It keeps the cost down. 

Another option in a small field with a heavy favorite is the “no-Mage trifecta-box.” A long shot bet, of course, because it only has a chance if Mage has a bad trip or throws his jockey at the gate.  

A $1 trifecta box playing three horses runs you just $6. I plan to play a $1 no-Mage tri-box with four ponies for $24. Getting an extra horse in there in case one of the hopeless runners sneaks in to try to spoil my trifecta. 

Preakness infield party at Pimlico

As far as the contest for the best infield party in the Triple Crown, it’s the Preakness going away. For years, Pimlico had a BYOB policy for the infield only, and the fans loved it. Some even tried to bring in kegs! They put a stop to that by declaring personal coolers only with cans, and of course, not glass.

The Preakness had eight consecutive years with attendance exceeding 100,000. Pretty good. Then they eliminated the infield BYOB policy and the attendance dropped to 77,000 the following year. I have always wondered about that.

So there you go. Bon chance.

Photo by AP / Julio Cortez
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Jack Flaherty

Jack Flaherty independently represented manufacturers in the Middle East and Africa for 29 years and is a lifelong horse racing fan who, on two occasions, successfully bribed the National Guard with cheap beer and hopped the fence to attend the 1974 and 1975 Kentucky Derby. Jack currently resides in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

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