National Treasure, who led long and hard in the 2023 Preakness under jockey John Velasquez, held off a late stretch surge from Blazing Sevens to give trainer Bob Baffert an historic eighth victory in the race. With that stretch duel playing out in his favor, Baffert becomes the winningest trainer in the race’s 148 runnings. National Treasure had gone off at 5-2 and paid $7.80. Blazing Sevens had received quite a bit of chatter and some of the money in the runup to the race, and paid $5.00. The top favorite Mage had gone off at 8-5 and paid $2.40.
Deep-closing favorite Mage had clawed his way up to third at the top of the stretch, but he could not manage to overtake his two rivals — with Blazing Sevens putting on a spirited challenge to National Treasure in the last two furlongs. Mage held on to show at the finish.
National Treasure and Velasquez eked out their win masterfully, with Blazing Sevens galloping out strongly past the wire. One had the sense that Velasquez could almost see the needle on his horse’s metaphorical gas tank approaching zero, and in the teeth of the stretch duel with Blazing Sevens, it was a question of seconds whether the finish line could be met before the game National Treasure ran out of energy. The momentum at the line was all with the Blazing Sevens, to the point that, according to the cliche, had the race been a hundred yards longer, the 148th Preakness would have had a different winner.
National Treasure was holding on but did not look as if there was much run left in him. The connections of Blazing Sevens, and most especially his trainer Chad Brown, will be sorely missing that one-sixteenth-of-a-mile by which the Preakness is shorter than the Kentucky Derby.
Bottom line: It was a textbook race for the Preakness itself, demonstrating with aching clarity the fact that at Pimlico, in the Preakness, you have to get the business done with dispatch.
National Treasure’s victory brought arguably the biggest sort of step back into a rather more positive sort of limelight for his storied trainer Baffert, who has just two weeks ago served out his hotly-contested two-year ban from racing at Churchill Downs as a result of his 2021 Derby winner Medina Spirit’s disqualification from that victory, after a race-day test for banned substances registered positive for betamethasone. This most historic win will serve the trainer as a measure of redemption, whether or not it works as such on the larger stage of the sport.
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