Preakness Stakes: How to watch, what you need to know

Preakness Stakes: How to watch, what you need to know

The 149th running of the $2 million Preakness Stakes takes place Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. It is the 13th of 14 races scheduled at Pimlico that day.

Coverage of the early races will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and stream on Peacock, and Preakness coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. It will also be available at and on the NBC Sports app.

Post time Saturday is 7:01 p.m. ET.

What is the Preakness?

The Preakness is a Grade I race for 3-year-old horses that was first run in 1873. It was named in honor of the horse Preakness, who won the Dinner Party Stakes at the opening of Pimlico in 1870.

The 1 3/16-mile race is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, a series of races for 3-year-old colts and fillies run over five weeks. The Triple Crown begins with the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May and concludes with the Belmont Stakes in June. The Preakness has been run in its traditional spot between the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes since 1931, with 2020 as the only exception, when the races were run in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been 13 Triple Crown winners since 1919, and 23 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to win the Belmont Stakes.

What happened last year?

National Treasure took an early lead and never gave it back, finishing first by a head over Blazing Sevens. Kentucky Derby winner Mage was 2¼ lengths back for third. National Treasure, trained by Bob Baffert, went on to finish sixth in the Belmont Stakes. He is still in training and most recently finished fourth in the Saudi Cup in February. Blazing Sevens, trained by Chad Brown, also remains in training and won an allowance race at Aqueduct in April. Mage was retired to stud last year.

What’s the story this year?

Muth, trained by Baffert, has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, who is 8-2 on the morning line. If Muth is made the favorite by bettors when the race goes off, it will be the first time since 2012 that the Kentucky Derby winner is not favored in the Preakness.

That year, Bodemeister, also trained by Baffert, was installed as the betting favorite for both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. I’ll Have Another held off Bodemeister in both races, but was retired after the Preakness due to an injury.

Muth is following a similar path to last year’s winner, National Treasure. Both skipped the Kentucky Derby due to Baffert’s ban from race tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. Baffert, who won the Triple Crown with American Pharoah and Justify, has not been allowed to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby since he won the race with Medina Spirit in 2021. The 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, who collapsed and died following a workout in California later that year, tested positive for betamethasone, a substance banned on race day.

Churchill Downs Inc. disqualified Medina Spirit and banned Baffert from running a horse at their race tracks for two years. That ban was recently extended through the 2024 year, despite Baffert’s attempts to fight it in court. Baffert was also banned from running at Belmont Park or any New York Racing Association tracks for a year, but that ban was reversed in court after the 2021 Belmont Stakes.

Baffert broke the record for most Preakness wins by a trainer with his eighth win last year and is going for No. 9 with Muth.

Who are the contenders and pretenders this year?

There will be nine horses running in the Preakness Stakes this year, and only three are continuing on from the Kentucky Derby (Mystik Dan, fourth-place finisher Catching Freedom and 17th-place finisher Just Steel).

Mugatu (20-1)

Mugatu is trained by Jeff Engler and will be ridden by jockey Joe Bravo. Mugatu has only one lifetime win after breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park in November. His only Grade I effort was a fifth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 6.

He is one of the most experienced horses in the race, with one win from 12 starts.

Uncle Heavy (20-1)

Uncle Heavy is a Pennsylvania-bred colt trained by Robert Reid Jr. and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. He won the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 3.

His last race was a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6. According to the official race chart, Uncle Heavy broke slow and had to race three-wide on the first turn, five-wide on the second turn, bumped with another horse and finished fifth after racing seven-wide in the stretch.

Catching Freedom (6-1)

Catching Freedom is trained by Brad Cox and will be ridden by Flavien Prat. He won the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 23 and closed to a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby down the stretch.

Catching Freedom rallied from 11th place to first in the Louisiana Derby, beating Honor Marie and Preakness opponent Tuscan Gold.

Muth (8-5)

Muth, trained by Baffert and who will be ridden by Juan Hernandez, was installed as the morning line favorite for a reason. He has the most stakes wins of his competition, having won the Grade I Arkansas Derby and Grade I San Vicente Stakes as a 3-year-old and the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes as a 2-year-old. He also finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November.

Muth won the Arkansas Derby while dueling with Timberlake down the stretch, kicking clear over both Just Steel and Mystik Dan for a two-length win.

Mystik Dan (9-2)

Mystik Dan is trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. McPeek became the first trainer since 1952 to sweep both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks this year after winning the Oaks with Thorpedo Anna. McPeek won the 2020 running of the Preakness with filly Swiss Skydiver.

McPeek was initially unsure of moving on to the Preakness with Mystik Dan due to the two-week turnaround. Mystik Dan did not handle a short rest well as a 2-year-old, breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs on Nov. 12 but then finishing fifth in an allowance race at the track two weeks later.

Mystik Dan has had at least a month between races since then, winning the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 3, finishing third in the Arkansas Derby on March 30 and then winning the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Seize the Grey (15-1)

Seize the Grey is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Jaime Torres. His 88-year-old trainer has won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness six times and the Belmont Stakes four times. His most recent Preakness win came with Oxbow in 2013.

Seize the Grey won the Grade II Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard, which is his most significant win out of nine lifetime starts. He also finished third in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 23 and seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 6.

Just Steel (15-1)

Just Steel is the other Lukas trainee and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Like Mugatu, he has more experience than most horses in the race, with 12 lifetime starts and five wins.

Just Steel finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby after fading a mile into the race.

He has hit the board in two graded stakes races, finishing second in the Arkansas Derby and second in the Grade III Southwest Stakes behind Mystik Dan.

Tuscan Gold (8-1)

Tuscan Gold is trained by Chad Brown and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. Gaffalione switches mounts after a controversial finish on Sierra Leone in the Kentucky Derby. Sierra Leone finished second in a photo finish after making contact with third-place finisher Forever Young, but neither jockey contested the finish after the conclusion of the race. Gaffalione was later fined $2,500 by stewards for his ride.

He is the least experienced horse in the race, with one win from three lifetime starts. He has raced only once as a 3-year-old, finishing third in the Louisiana Derby on March 23 behind Catching Freedom and Honor Marie.

Imagination (6-1)

Imagination is the second of two entrants trained by Baffert and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Imagination has not raced since a second-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6. He won the Grade II San Felipe Stakes against three other horses at Santa Anita Park on March 3.

Weather forecast

There is a 35% chance of thunderstorms Saturday , according to Accuweather. The Preakness was last run on a sloppy track when Justify won in 2018 and was also run on sloppy tracks in 2015 (American Pharoah) and 2016 (Exaggerator).

The last time the Preakness was run on a sloppy track was 2017, when Justify won the second leg of the Triple Crown. American Pharoah (2015) and Exaggerator (2016) also won the Preakness on sloppy tracks.

Betting strategy

Horses close to the pace generally run well in the Preakness, and National Treasure fit that profile last year after cruising to an early lead and holding it. Early Voting was also close to the pace when he won the 2022 running.

That’s one reason it could be Muth’s race to lose, but his history against several of his opponents and the amount of rest he has gotten are question marks.

Muth won’t bring a great price based on his morning line odds, but neither will Mystik Dan, who didn’t rebound well the last time he was off short rest.

Uncle Heavy is one of the more interesting long shots after a troubled trip in his last race. His win in the Withers Stakes came on a muddy, sealed track after he closed down the stretch to win by a nose. If the track is wet, consider him in bets.

Imagination might not be as good as his stablemate, Muth, but he has never been worse than second in any of his six lifetime starts and has to be considered. He’ll likely be near the front, like his stablemate.

Terrell’s picks for the Preakness

Win: Muth
Exacta: Muth over Imagination
Trifecta: Muth over Imagination, Mystik Dan and Uncle Heavy in third