Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan takes on 7 other horses in the 149th Preakness

Rain was falling at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday hours before Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan goes for back-to-back Triple Crown victories when he takes on seven other horses in the Preakness Stakes.

He would be the first to win both the Derby and the Preakness since Justify in 2018. That would set up an unusual and historic moment next month with a Triple Crown on the line at the Belmont Stakes, which is taking place for the first time at the Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York because of renovations at Belmont Park in New York City.

Mystik Dan will have to beat Bob Baffert-trained Imagination, Brad Cox’s Catching Freedom and Chad Brown’s Tuscan Gold, who are the main challengers, and the Preakness could be run on a muddy track, with showers expected to continue throughout the afternoon.

Baffert was set to saddle two horses in the race set to go off just after 7 p.m. EDT, but morning line favorite Muth was scratched during the week because of a fever. Mystik Dan opened Saturday as the 3-1 favorite, with Catching Freedom and Tuscan Gold each 7-2 and Imagination 9-2.

“Catching Freedom trained really well going into the Derby,” Mystik Dan’s trainer, Kenny McPeek, said this week. “He’s a very nice horse. And Bob, he wouldn’t bring a horse without it being a good horse, and Chad’s also got a horse coming out of (finishing third behind winner Catching Freedom in) the Louisiana Derby. Yeah, it’s not a given.”

It was not a given that McPeek would send Mystik Dan to Baltimore on a two-week turnaround from the colt’s exhausting win by a nose in the Kentucky Derby. But he’s one of three horses from that race running in the Preakness, up from one last year and two in 2022.

Many trainers’ reluctance to do the Derby-Preakness double, once the norm for horses on the Triple Crown trail, has raised questions about the prestige of the middle jewel and concerns that it has become the unwanted stepchild of the series. There are debates about spacing the races out to adapt to modern thoroughbreds that race less frequently than in previous eras.

This will be the final Preakness at aging Pimlico Race Course as it stands now, with demolition set to begin early next year. The 150th running in 2025 will still take place at the track during construction before moving to Laurel Park in 2026 and then returning to a rebuilt Pimlico in 2027.


AP horse racing:

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