Wednesday, May 17, 2023
BALTIMORE - Kentucky Derby winner Mage galloped Tuesday morning at Pimlico Race Course, where the Gustavo Delgado-trained colt finished his 1 ½-mile preparation for Saturday’s Preakness with good energy without prompting from exercise rider J. J. Delgado.
“He’s so smart. I can’t overstate that. He’s a really intelligent horse. Not only does he take care of himself during his races, but he knows when to commence,” said Ramiro Restrepo, who owns the 3-year-old son of Good Magic with OGMA Investments, Sterling Racing and CMNWLTH. “He responds to the cues from the rider so well. He’s learned Gustavo’s program and you can see it how he picks up the rhythm on his own.”
Mage has demonstrated an unusual level of maturity for a lightly raced colt who was able to outrun 17 more experienced rivals while capturing the May 6 Kentucky Derby in only his fourth career start.
“The races are developing him race by race. We’re just waiting to see how much he has in the well of talent. Every day, he’s showing more and more signs of maturation and understanding his job as a racehorse.,” Restrepo said. “It’s great to see it happening.”
Mage went through his morning routine like a veteran racehorse while striding smoothly across the Pimlico racing surface. Later, he barely turning a hair during his bath upon his return to the Pimlico Stakes Barn, where he was the sole focus of many photographers and TV camera crews.
“Professional, that’s the best way to describe it,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr., his father’s assistant. “Very quiet. The track being so quiet with only a few horses at the same time, that helps too.”
Mage has instilled confidence in his owners and trainers heading into the Preakness.
“It’s the greatest feeling just bringing the Derby winner. It gives you confidence,” Delgado Jr. said. “We’re just go day by day, race by race, but it does give you confidence. He’s competitive – 8-5 – not 50-1, 25-1.”
Cox Expects First Mission to ‘Take a Step Forward’
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Trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday morning that he is happy with the way Godolphin’s homebred First Mission has settled in at Pimlico Race Course since arriving from Churchill Downs Monday evening.
First Mission, winner of the April 15 Gr. III Lexington at Keeneland, will step into the Triple Crown series Saturday in the 148th Preakness Stakes. He drew the outside post in the field of eight. He will be ridden by Luis Saez, who was up for the Lexington.
“I’m super-pleased with how he shipped in last night,” Cox said. “He jumped right into the feed tub. It was kind of late when he got here, but I thought it made the most sense in regards to travel time and when to send him.”
This will be Cox’s second Preakness and First Mission will be his third runner in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. In 2019 he entered a pair: Owendale, who was third and Warrior’s Charge, who was fourth.
Cox sent the lightly raced son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out to the track at Pimlico during training hours Tuesday.
“I’m happy with what we’ve done so far,” Cox said. ‘He had a really good morning and just galloped an easy mile. He’s a kind horse. He’s easy on himself. He doesn’t over-train. He doesn’t pull too much. He has settled in well. So far, so good.”
First Mission did not race as a 2-year-old and debuted on Feb. 18 with a second by three-quarters of a length at Fair Grounds. Cox said the timing of the Preakness fits nicely with the colt’s schedule.
“He’s getting five weeks since the Lexington,” Cox said. “He ran in February, then he was back in four weeks. Then he was back again in four weeks in the Lexington. So, he’s getting five weeks. He has never regressed, based off his numbers, the figures I use. He’s been very steady with his figures.
“I think he’s got to take a step forward. I think he will take a step forward,” he added. “He’s given me every reason to be super-confident with what he’s done in the mornings at Churchill. His three works since the Lexington have been really good. His first was just a maintenance half-mile by himself. Super easy in 49 (seconds). His last two works have been really, really good. So, we’ll see.”