Team Tuley Best Bets for Preakness
(Editor's Note: this column has been updated after it was announced early Friday that #8 First Mission was going to be scratched from Saturday's Preakness, especially since Ed Sehon and Duane Colucci had both picked First Mission in the original posting of this article on Thursday morning.)
Saturday is the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown, at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
Lightly raced Mage is obviously the old 3-year-old eligible to win the Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby on the First Saturday in May at 15-1, becoming just the second colt to break the “Curse of Apollo” without racing as a 2-year-old. Justify ended the 136-year drought in 2018 when he won the Run For The Roses without racing at 2, matching the feat of Apollo in 1882.
I’m joined by my regular Team Tuley members – Rampart race and sportsbook manager Duane Colucci, Ed Sehon (aka Mr. Ed, who will also have separate Friday and Saturday pieces on the Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness cards at Pimlico at VSiN.com/horse-racing/) and John Lauro.
We also asked South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews for his thoughts as he was the only handicapper to put Mage on top in our VSiN Kentucky Derby Betting Guide two weeks ago.
VSiN programming note: in addition to Mr. Ed’s breakdowns of the full Friday and Saturday cards, our VSiN colleague Adam Burke also has a comprehensive Black-Eyed Susan preview and picks. In addition, I’ll have my regular Team Tuley piece on Saturday with picks on the Preakness undercard as well as non-Pimlico plays.
Let’s get to our staff picks, starting with Lauro as he has a play that actually starts Friday with the Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness Double.
John Lauro, Team Tuley contributor
“The Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness Double (which is made in Friday’s Race 13 at Pimlico) looks very simple to me: Undefeated #9 Faiza (7-5 morning line), who is trained by Bob Baffert, to #3 Mage (8-5 morning line) in the Preakness.”
Chris Andrews, South Point sportsbook director
“I can’t go against #3 Mage. I’ve been on him for a while and I like him again.”
Ed Sehon (aka Mr. Ed), Team Tuley contributor
My top pick is NOT Kentucky Derby winner #3 Mage. Morning line choice has never raced on fewer than four weeks rest. I applaud connections victory – but have trouble trusting a tired Mage to finish any better than third. My pick is sharp and steady #1 National Treasure. With super-savvy trainer Bob Baffert once again in charge of his barn following suspension, he’s going all out to successfully return to the Triple Crown spotlight. Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Velasquez goes along for the ride. I’ll box #1 National Treasure in Exactas with the aforementioned #3 Mage and #5 Red Route One.
Duane Colucci, Rampart race and sportsbook manager
(Editor's Note: Colucci's original pick was #8 First Mission. Here is his updated write-up as of 11:30 a.m. PT Friday.)
“My Preakness selection is #5 Red Route One (10-1). This closer ran well in both the Southwest and the Rebel vs. stiff competition. The score at Oaklawn last month was solid and he seems to be in top shape. Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Joel Rosario are hitting at 40% at Pimlico. Bet 5 to Win and key 5 over 1,3,7 in Exactas, Trifectas and reverse. Bonus Black-Eyed Susan selection on Friday: #4 Merlazza (6-1 morning line). If Faiza is a little off, this filly will capitalize. She’s peaking now, but has her work cut out with the Baffert champion entered.”
Dave Tuley, VSiN senior reporter
“Mage is going to be tough to beat, as none of his top Derby rivals (and none, period) are returning off 2 weeks’ rest to face him in the Preakness. But what makes the Triple Crown so hard – in addition to running 3 races over 5 weeks at 3 different tracks and 3 different distances – is the addition of the “new shooters” who skipped the Derby and come in fresh. Now, the old saying at “Old Hilltop” (Pimlico’s nickname) is that you can’t bet a deep closer in the Preakness. However, in the last 14 mile-and-three-sixteenths dirt races at Pimlico, an early-speed horse has won 5 times (36%) and a deep closer has won – well, what do you know? – 5 times (36%), so it’s just as likely that a deep closer wins as a front-runner. My pick is #5 Red Route One (10-1 morning line). He was taken off the Derby trail after a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, but all-time winningest trainer Steve Asmussen added Lasix (a legal anti-bleeding medication) and top closing jockey Joel Rosario and Red Route One responded with a late run to win an ungraded $200,000 stakes race at Oaklawn. A similar trip puts him right there at a price. Wager: Win and Place, plus I’ll use in Exactas and Trifectas with other late runners like #3 Mage (that middle move in the Derby from 16th place and 13 lengths back at the first call to 6th pace and just 2 1/4 lengths back at the second call is too impressive to ignore) and a real bomb in #2 Chasing the Chaos (50-1) to light up the tote board.”