Jason Beem's Thursday Column for May 18, 2023

May 18th, 2023

A good Thursday to you all! Ready for Preakness weekend after what so far hasn’t been too weird of a Preakness lead-up. I suppose with the late scratches and changes throughout Kentucky Derby week, I was bracing for more from the Preakness in that regard. But, knock on wood, so far so good. 

I’ve always had a weird affinity for the Preakness. I’m not entirely sure why, but I just do. I love the color of the flowers in the race and it usually takes place on or around my birthday, but I just have always loved this race. Of course, it has had so many classic renditions, and as a proud West Coaster, Sunday Silence is still my favorite running of the race.

I talked with Pimlico track announcer Dave Rodman on my podcast last week, and we talked about the history of the race. When I visited Dave at Pimlico in 2021, I remember looking out the window and pointing to the top of the stretch. I told him, “Hey, that’s where Scrappy T bumped Afleet Alex.” Dave kind of chuckled and said, “Yeah, that’s where that happened.” But he went on in the interview to talk about how, when he first gets up to that booth each year, he’ll take a look around and realize all the things that have happened on that track below. Secretariat, American Pharoah, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, and a thousand other amazing races and horses. 

Historical sites are fascinating to me in a way. I live and work in Richmond during the summer months and there’s obviously no shortage of historical sites there. It’s always very interesting to visit them and stand in the same place where something of significance happened. And Pimlico certainly has that feel.

I’ll never forget getting a tour around Churchill Downs from the late Luke Kruytbosch back in 2007 or so. As we were walking, he took me under the tunnel that goes out to the track and stopped. “Think about all the horses and jockeys that have walked under this tunnel.” It didn’t hit me for a second because I think in that moment it just seemed like a quiet tunnel where nobody currently was other than me and Luke. As I started to think about it, though, it became more powerful.

Races like the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are often huge life moments for the connections and horses. I can’t imagine what a jockey thinks the first time passing through that tunnel for that race. Or even the 15th time!

The more I look at this year’s Preakness, the more I start to lean towards National Treasure as my top pick. I think the race certainly looks a little top-heavy in terms of likely winners. I’m guessing he’ll be the biggest price of the top three, unless Baffert being back lures lots of support at the windows. They’re adding blinkers, he gets the one hole, and there’s not a ton of speed, so I feel like they’re going to send him early.

Mage winning would certainly be my favorite outcome, just because I think the next three weeks are more fun with a Triple Crown on the line. I think Red Route One is an interesting price horse but I do worry some of the longer-priced horses in this race will take more money than they should, like the bombs in the Derby did. I suppose we shall see. Best of luck to everyone this weekend! 

Jason’s Preakness Picks: 

  1. National Treasure
  2. Mage
  3. Red Route One