Mage’s Triple Crown dreams ended Saturday night with stitches above his right eye and a homestretch fight he couldn’t win. The Preakness had been a battle, one his connections were already looking to move past. They want another shot at National Treasure.

“We still like the horse,” co-owner and assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. said on NBC after finishing third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the Bob Baffert-trained colt, “and we’re going to beat him later on.”

As the seven-horse field rounded the final turn inside Pimlico Race Course, Mage and jockey Javier Castellano had even less traffic to navigate than they did two weeks ago at Churchill Downs. At the Kentucky Derby, Mage had picked off horse by horse as he accelerated into the top of the stretch. After passing leader Two Phil’s, he held on for just his second career victory, winning as a 15-1 shot against a field of 17 other contenders.

In Baltimore, though, just 10 miles from the Timonium Fairgrounds auction where Ramiro Restrepo and Delgado had purchased the then-2-year-old colt for $290,000, an overpowering burst eluded Mage. He stalked the lead pack over a plodding opening half-mile, only to find there was no passing National Treasure or Blazing Sevens down the stretch.

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“I followed every single step of the way the winner,” Castellano said. “But those horses, with pace, no speed in the race, hard to catch.”

Their week in Baltimore had been a blur of interviews and attention, if not an especially fortuitous stretch. The Delgados — Gustavo and his father, Delgado Sr., Mage’s trainer — drew the No. 3 post Monday for the 1 3/16-mile race when an outside position might have been more advantageous.

Three days later, the Derby winner bumped his head in his Pimlico stall and suffered superficial wounds that required stitches above his right eye. Mage resumed training without interruption and was cleared to run in Saturday’s $1.65 million race, where he was trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Justify in 2018.

He started his fourth career race well enough — “the best break he has had in a long, long time,” Castellano said — and followed every step of the way for the first 90 seconds. But when National Treasure and Blazing Sevens opened up, “I could not catch those horses.” Castellano said.

Mage’s next race is unclear, Delgado said. But what happened on this third Saturday in May would not diminish the joys of that glorious first Saturday.

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“He’s lightly raced; we’ll see how he comes back,” Delgado said. “We’ll regroup, take our time and see what’s next to him. Nobody is going to take the Derby from him.”

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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