Last year, Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby at 80-1 odds, like a kamikaze to horse racing. Not honoring the tradition of the sport was the team behind the emeritus Kentucky Derby champion, who decided to sit the winner out of the second leg of the sport’s Triple Crown. The biggest prize in the sport, two wins away, and the team behind Rich Strike said: “Nahhhhhhh. Screw you guys. I’m going home.” That’s a direct quote, or maybe that was Eric Cartman. (Editor’s note: That was Cartman.) Anyway, Rich Strike wasn’t in Baltimore two weeks after winning in Louisville. This year’s winner, Mage, isn’t going away. He’ll run in the Preakness Stakes with history still up for grabs.
Mage’s inclusion in the middle leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown is the best thing that could happen for the sport. Television ratings will be way higher and the amount of media coverage will skyrocket. That’s the risk the Belmont Stakes has to take every year. It’s either a chance at rare sports history, or just a stakes race. The Kentucky Derby is the inclusion into history and the Preakness is the world’s least convenient speed bump, but most fun for the 100,000-plus getting wasted on the infield. Not that I’ve ever done that. Armin van Buuren and Childish Gambino were fantastic from what I remember.
Mage will be the first Derby winner to run the Triple Crown’s second leg in the traditional order as the first horse to cross the finish line, the last time there was a Triple Crown winner in Justify. In 2019, neither elevated-winner Country House nor disqualified-champion Maximum Security participated. The world and the Triple Crown were messed up in 2020. Medina Spirit, who crossed the Derby finish line first in 2021, but was later stripped of the win because of testing positive for a banned substance, finished third in that year’s Preakness. Mandaloun, who was handed that victory, skipped the Preakness. Mage brings some sort of stability to a sport that’s whacko and doesn’t deserve the flowers the winning horse gets after every stakes race. And for those two exciting sports minutes in May, I’m thankful.