NATIONAL TREASURE (Quality Road – Treasure, by Medaglia D’Oro) led from the start and held off a game Blazing Sevens the length of the stretch to win the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, by a head Saturday at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Owned by the partnership of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Wa148thves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan, National Treasure ($7.80) completed 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.12 over a fast main track to earn his second career win from six starts and first in a stakes.
The gate-to-wire victory by National Treasure came on a day in which his Hall of Fame trainer felt a full range of emotions. Baffert saddled Arabian Lion for a victory in the Sir Barton Stakes to lead off the stakes line-up, but the celebration came to an abrupt halt when heavily favored Havnameltdown sustain a fatal injury two races later in the Chick Lang (G3).
Baffert had been tied with 19th century trainer R. Wyndham Walden for the most Preakness victories before National Treasure joined Triple Crown champions Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015) as well as Lookin at Lucky (2010), War Emblem (2002), Point Given (2001), Real Quiet (1998) and Silver Charm (1997) as a Preakness champion.
Meanwhile, it was the first Preakness triumph in 13 tries for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who ran second with Kentucky Derby (G1) winners Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Baffert-trained Authentic in 2020, and Itsmyluckday in 2013.
In all Velazquez won four races on the Preakness program, including stakes victories in the $100,000 Sir Barton with Arabian Lion, also trained by Baffert, and $100,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) aboard Straight No Chaser.
Breaking from the rail against six rivals, the smallest Preakness field since Snow Chief topped a field of seven in 1986, National Treasure made the lead easily on his own and settled into a rhythm while going a quarter of a mile in 23.95 seconds and a half in 48.92 while racing slightly off the rail ahead of Maryland-bred multiple stakes winner Coffeewithchris.
National Treasure went six furlongs in 1:13.49 when he was eased out by Velazquez and met by a challenge from Blazing Sevens, winner of the 2022 Champagne (G1) that was following a similar blueprint for trainer Chad Brown of skipping the Derby to point for the Preakness, a strategy that proved successful with Cloud Computing in 2017 and Early Voting last year.
Blazing Sevens and National Treasure hooked up at the top of the stretch and battled side-by-side down the lane, brushing near the sixteenth pole and again approaching the wire, before Velazquez coaxed one more jump out of National Treasure. It was 2 ¼ lengths back to Kentucky Derby winner Mage in third.
Red Route One, Chase the Chaos, Perform and Coffeewithchris completed the order of finish. First Mission was scratched.
National Treasure fetched $500,000 as a yearling at Saratoga in August 2021 and graduated at first asking last September in a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight sprint at Del Mar. The bay Quality Road colt ran second to stablemate Cave Rock in the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita and third behind 2022 juvenile champion Forte in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) to end his 2-year-old season.
This year, National Treasure finished third by a length in the one-mile Sham (G3) Jan. 8 and then ran fourth for former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby (G1) before being returned to Baffert for the lead-up to the Preakness.
National Treasure is the fourth foal of placed Treasure, who is a half sister to multiple stakes winner Inspired, stakes winners Elope, Initiation and Silver City.
The 2023 Triple Crown series concludes in the June 10 Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. Baffert was non-committal following the Preakness on whether he would bring National Treasure back in the 1 ½-mile ‘Test of the Champion.
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