There are times when those “big” sporting events provide less-than-expected results. That means when you see a thriller and a great plan comes together it produces something special. The 148th running of the Preakness was exactly that…special.
Those familiar with the game understood this running was not loaded with lots of hyped horses and decorated resumes. Nevertheless, this race was still a grade 1 “stallion-maker” and the second leg of the Triple Crown series worth $1.65 million. Coming into these races, all have a plan for success. The real question is, who can get things to add up without taking their shoes off?
National Treasure was one of those horses without a gleaming record of past performances. However, this son of Quality Road had some things going for him. First and foremost he was trained by Bob Baffert. Big Race Bob has won more Triple Crown races than anyone and was tied for most Preakness wins ever (7). Some natural early speed was also solid in a field that was lacking frontrunners. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was another piece to the puzzle as his ability to get a horse going early has yielded many trips to the winner’s circle. In this short field of seven horses, his rail draw could produce a ground-saving trip if he could make the lead early. The numbers for a winning equation were there, but the ciphering would have to take place on that Pimlico dirt.
When the gates opened on May 20, the pencil was immediately put to paper. Breaking alertly under the guidance of Johnny V, Treasure immediately took the lead. Guiding the field through some softer early fractions (23.95 opening quarter mile, 48.92 half-mile), the backstretch run saw a relaxed horse finding his rhythm on the front end. As the runners turned for home and National Treasure continued to lead, it was up to him to provide the final answer. Baffert brought him in great condition, Johnny V got him in position, and now it was time to put something after the equal sign.
At the top of the stretch Blazing Sevens came at National Treasure. As these two warriors engaged in a duel that would make Sunday Silence and Easy Goer proud, the adrenaline was flowing out of a fire hose. Each time it appeared the Chad Brown-trained Sevens would get by, Treasure dug a little deeper. Displaying the heart of a real racehorse, National Treasure simply refused to lose. Prevailing by a head, National Treasure completed the equation with a winning answer.
“You hope the horse responds to the things you want to do and they give you everything they have and he did”, says Velazquez, who won his first Preakness. “He did not want to let the other horse pass him and he didn’t. That’s what champions do.”
The Preakness win was the first of 2023 for National Treasure and the second from six career starts. He covered the mile and three-sixteenths in 1:55.12 and now has $1.335 million in career earnings.