Mage Makes J.J. Delgado Feel Like a Winner
Cox Counting on Saez to Show First Mission the Way
Blazing Sevens, Early Voting, Cloud Computing Same but Different
McGaughey Hoping for Better ‘Perform’-ance in Preakness
Baffert on National Treasure: ‘Talent is There’
Videos at Preakness.Isctv.com
Interview Shug McGaughey (Perform)
Training: Mage, First Mission, National Treasure, Red Route One
BALTIMORE, MD – J.J. Delgado rode in more than 6,000 races as a jockey in the United States and never won a graded stakes during a career that spanned 1996 to 2014. But no one has spent as much time on Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage’s back than Delgado, the colt’s exercise rider.
“I love the horse,” Delgado said. “He’s an easy horse to work with. He’s a very smart horse.”
Delgado should know. He started galloping the colt last year and knew from the start that he might be something special.
“I have 43 years of experience, so you know when the horses have talent, when the horse is so-so, and when the horse is a cheaper horse,” Delgado said. “The first time I rode the horse (Mage) in training, I said to the trainer, ‘You know what? This horse is a small horse, but he has a lot of talent.’”
Delgado, 60, was a jockey in Venezuela and rode horses there for Mage’s trainer, Gustavo Delgado, until moving to the United States and riding his first race at Calder Race Course in 1996.
“When I was a jockey, I rode in different places,” Delgado said. “Massachusetts. New Jersey. Florida. Ohio. Indiana. A few horses in Kentucky.”
Delgado rode his last race in 2014 due to weight issues and in order help care for his wife after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I wanted to spend my time with her, as a family,” he said.
Delgado now lives in Miami and works exclusively for trainer Gustavo Delgado, no relation.
While Delgado never won a graded stakes as a jockey (he rode in just three), he said he feels like he is a winner as Mage’s exercise rider.
“Thank God for giving me the opportunity to win a big race,” Delgado said.
Mage schooled in the starting gate at Pimlico Race Course Thursday morning before galloping 1 ½ miles under Delgado in preparation for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1).
Cox Counting on Saez to Show First Mission the Way
There has been a lot of talk about the field for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) lacking speed, which would be fine with trainer Brad Cox, who says he’d be OK if Stonestreet Lexington (G3) winner First Mission goes to the front “if they weren’t going too quick. If they slow it down, yeah, you’d like to be right there.”
With only three races to go by, Cox said he’s not sure First Mission’s best running style.
“I think he’s pretty honest,” he said. “He does wear a small set of blinkers. But listen, if we could track one or two, that would be the ideal trip.”
First Mission, owned and bred by Godolphin, drew Post 8 in the field of eight, which should give jockey Luis Saez plenty options.
“I think we’ll get a good trip,” Cox said. “I’m hopeful he breaks as well Saturday as he did in the Lexington and gets a good forward position. Luis is a great rider all around, but he’s exceptional away from the gate and getting early position. We’ll see how it unfolds going into the first turn. It’s ultimately up to Luis where he’s going to place him and where he’s happy with him, but he’s doing great. He should be able to do what he needs to do.”
Cox started out handicapping horses as a youngster growing up near Churchill Downs. Asked how handicappers should size up First Mission in comparison to Preakness favorite Mage, another unraced 2-year-old who won the Kentucky Derby (G1) off three lifetime starts and without a prior stakes victory, Cox laughed.
“I don’t know how you compare them. I guess that would be a question for a really good handicapper,” he said. “Look, I think our horse, just based off his physical and his pedigree, should get better with distance. He’s going from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and three-sixteenths. Mage is actually backing up in distance, and he obviously has got a pedigree that can get a mile and a quarter and a mile and three-sixteenths.
“I think we might be a little quicker away from there and in the game a little bit, more forwardly placed than Mage.”
Blazing Sevens, Early Voting, Cloud Computing Same but Different
Of course, the question was going to come, because trainer Chad Brown has used the same formula for success in the past on the biggest day of racing in Maryland.
Brown won the Preakness Stakes (G1) in 2017 with a horse named Cloud Computing and again last year with Early Voting. Can he do it again on Saturday when he saddles Blazing Sevens in the eight-horse, 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course?
The big similarity with all three is this: Brown decided not to run any of them in the Kentucky Derby (G1), even though they all had enough qualifying points to get into the field. Instead, he waited for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
He has been successful with that strategy twice. He is hoping it will work again Saturday. Blazing Sevens, owned by John and Carla Capek’s Rodeo Racing LLC, is the 6-1 fourth choice on the Preakness morning line.
The biggest difference between Blazing Sevens and the pair of Brown’s Preakness winners is experience. Blazing Sevens, a son of Good Magic, will be making his seventh career start on Saturday.
The Preakness was the fourth career start for both Early Voting and Cloud Computing.
“The fact that we skipped the Derby, with the points, giving (Blazing Sevens) six weeks rest makes him similar to the other two,” Brown said. “This horse got started earlier. He won the Champagne (G1). They are really different horses to compare.”
Blazing Sevens had 46 qualifying points and was solidly in the Derby field before Brown pulled the plug.
“It’s one of the hardest decisions as a horoughbred horse trainer to sit out the Kentucky Derby when you have the points,” Brown said.
Blazing Sevens last ran in the April 8 Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland and finished third. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, it was a major improvement over his first start in 2023 when he did not run at all in an eighth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on March 4.
“His Blue Grass was very good, a very good step in the right direction,” Brown said. “But it wasn’t quite good enough to set him up to run the race of his life in the Derby, which is what you need to do. I didn’t feel he would be ready in four weeks to do that. If you choose to take a shot and go for a home run and miss, not only do you lose the race, you are probably out of the other Triple Crown races, and it just sends you so far backward if you are wrong. I did not want to be wrong.”
Blazing Sevens, who is under the watch of Brown’s assistant Jose Hernandez at Pimlico, galloped about 1 ¼ miles for the third straight morning with exercise rider Peer Levia. They went to the track at 6:30 a.m.
McGaughey Hoping for Better ‘Perform’-ance in Preakness
Perform isn’t the first horse trained by Shug McGaughey that has been supplemented into a major stakes. It’s costing the colt’s owners $150,000 to take part in Saturday’s Preakness (G1) at Pimlico Race Course. But the Hall of Fame trainer is hoping the outcome turns out better than it did the other time his owners reached into their pockets to get a horse into a big race.
“He didn’t run any good,” McGaughey said of Vanlandingham, who was supplemented into the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at a cost of $360,000 and promptly finished seventh.
McGaughey said there’s good reason to think Perform could justify the six-figure gamble of owners Woodford Racing LLC, Lanes End Farm, Phipps Stable, Ken Langone and Edward J. Hudson Jr.
The late-developing colt is peaking at just the right time.
“If he runs his race, I think he’d have a big shot,” McGaughey said. “He hasn’t given me any reason that we shouldn’t do it.”
McGaughey said Perform’s owners began thinking about the Preakness shortly after the colt won the Federico Tesio Stakes at nearby Laurel Park April 15. But since he hadn’t already been nominated to the Preakness, it would require them to pay a $150,000 supplemental fee.
“I texted (Lanes End’s) Bill Farish four or five days before we had to put the money up,” recalled McGaughey, who was prepared to make a case for the Preakness. “I said, ‘Before I start running my mouth….’”
But before McGaughey could finish typing the words, Farish cut him off.
“I thought we’re running in the Preakness,” McGaughey said Farish told him. “And I said, ‘Hey, I don’t have to worry about it now.’”
It took Perform six races just to break his maiden, with one of his losses coming to Mage in a Jan. 28 maiden event at Gulfstream Park. But the colt won his first race involving two turns (March 11 at Tampa Bay Downs) and followed that performance with another winning effort in the Federico Tesio.
“His race in the Tesio was good,” McGaughey said. “He came out of it really good. He had a really good work a couple of weeks ago at Belmont. And then he came back and had a real good work again on Sunday. He shipped down here in good shape. So, you know, give it a whirl.”
Baffert on National Treasure: ‘Talent is There”
National Treasure has required patience from his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and his ownership group: SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital LLC and Catherine Donovan.
The $500,000 yearling purchase has one win in five career starts but has three graded-stakes placings and earnings of $345,000. Before the Quality Road colt ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in November, Baffert described him as a work in progress. Before he sent him to Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) said he was still immature and had not completely grown up physically.
Baffert quipped that, “He would have been a great Kentucky Derby-in-September horse.”
In his most recent start, National Treasure was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 8. He did not go to the Kentucky Derby (G1) and was pointed to the 148th Preakness, a classic that Baffert has won a record-tying seven times.
National Treasure will be equipped with blinkers, which he has worn twice before, and drew the rail for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has been up for four of his career starts, has the mount.
While National Treasure is quick and may be a prominent player in the Preakness, Baffert and his owners are playing the waiting game with the colt.
“The talent is there,” Baffert said. “We just haven’t seen it in full yet. Maybe by summer. But he’s doing well for this race.”
Red Route One Gaining Focus for Preakness Stakes
Darren Fleming, one of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s top assistants, had an up-close view of the progress made by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Red Route One throughout the winter at Oaklawn Park. On Saturday, he’ll find out if it’s enough to win the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
The late-running chestnut son of Gun Runner went from finishing a well-beaten second in the Southwest (G3) to rallying from 20 lengths back in the slop to finish second again in the Rebel (G2), but only by a length. Then came the Arkansas Derby (G1), when he could get no closer than sixth but still finished only 5 ½ lengths behind victorious Angel of Empire, who went on to be a close third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He ducked away from something down the lane,” Fleming said of Red Route One’s Arkansas Derby. “I thought it cost him a lot of momentum. He wasn’t beaten very far for the whole thing, and that’s being slowed way down at the eighth pole.”
Red Route One was rerouted from the Kentucky Derby (G1) to the $200,000, 1 1/8-mile Bath House Row Stakes at Oaklawn, where he closed into a moderate pace to win by a head and earn an all-fees paid berth in the Preakness. Joel Rosario has the return mount and will break from Post 5 on Red Route One, who is 10-1 on the morning line.
“He got rolling late, but he finished up nice,” Fleming said of the Bath House Row. “And he went straight to the wire, which is something that has been kind of hindering him, too, like in the Arkansas Derby. He’s gotten more focused now. Before, he was always looking around for something.”
Red Route One was scheduled to school in the paddock with the third race Thursday. Fleming said he expects the colt to train around 6 a.m. Friday. Asmussen also is expected in Baltimore on Friday.
Salzman: Coffeewithchris ‘Will Give His All’
Since shipping Coffeewithchris from Laurel Park to Pimlico Race Course Wednesday to finish preparations for Saturday’s 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), trainer John Salzman Jr. has been surprised by the media coverage of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“It’s been crazy. It’s a lot more than I expected, especially being a longshot. I figured I’d just come in and fly under the radar. That’s didn’t work out,” Salzman said. “I guess being a Maryland-bred has added to the hype. We’re rooting for him and hoping for the best. He’s a nice horse. He’s done everything I’ve asked him. We’re just looking for a good, safe trip. He’ll give his all.”
Coffeewithchris, a multiple stakes-winning Maryland-bred who is owned by John Salzman, Fred Wasserloos and Anthony Geruso, is rated at 20-1 on the morning line.
The son of Ride On Curlin has taken to his new surroundings well, Saltzman said following training hours Thursday morning.
“He galloped off from the quarter pole to the wire and then galloped about a mile and a half. He handed it well, He did everything we asked,” Salzman said. “He trained good. I was very happy with him.”
Salzman hasn’t made a firm decision on whether Coffeewithchris will be saddled in the paddock or in the saddling area on the turf course.
“I’m leaning going into the paddock, where it’s a little quieter. My horse isn’t familiar being out there with the crowd and all the people, so I’m going to keep him as calm, cool and collected as possible,” Salzman said.
Maryland-based Jaime Rodriguez has the mount on Coffeewithchris.
Chase the Chaos ‘Nice and Sharp’ for Preakness
In his first visit to the track over which he will race Saturday in the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Bill Dory and Adam Ference’s Chase the Chaos took a couple of get-acquainted laps around Pimlico Race Course Thursday on a nippy sunny morning.
Chase the Chaos made the 16-hour trip from Northern California to Baltimore Tuesday and had a very low-key Wednesday. Trainer Ed Moger Jr. said the gelding went out to the track around 6:45 a.m.
“He was nice and sharp,” Moger said. “He was a little quiet yesterday; he was great today.”
Moger is based at Golden Gate Fields, which is located approximately 14 miles northeast of San Francisco, and Chase the Chaos trains over its synthetic surface. Five of his eight career starts, which include two wins, a second and a third have been on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate.
Chase the Chaos has raced twice on dirt, a win in the mud at Canterbury Downs in his career debut in August and a well-beaten seventh in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 4. Moger said the son of Astern got over the Pimlico dirt surface well.
“He went great. He looked super,” Moger said. “He was kind of looking at the infield a little bit with all the commotion on the infield when he first went around. The second time he was perfect.”
Chase the Chaos won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Feb. 11 and earned the fees-paid berth in the Preakness. He will be the third winner to compete in the Preakness since the El Camino Real Derby became a win-and-in race for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Anothertwistafate was 10th in 2019 and Rombauer was the winner at Old Hilltop in 2021.
Maryland-based jockey Sheldon Russell will ride Chase the Chaos in the Preakness. Russell watched him train Thursday. Chase the Chaos will start from Post 2 and is 50-1 on the morning line.
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