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Far from Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby winner Mage's team settles into Preakness routine

BALTIMORE (AP) — Preakness favorite Mage took to the track Tuesday for his most significant workout since winning the Kentucky Derby as his team focused on finding their routine following a spate of horse deaths at Churchill Downs that overshadowed the race.

The victory capped a tumultuous stretch in which seven horses died of various circumstances at the Louisville track over a 10-day span. A Derby contender was one of those fatalities, another was scratched and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. suspended for two deaths in his barn. Another horse died racing Sunday to make it a total of eight at Churchill Downs in under three weeks.

The $3 million Derby itself went off without incident May 6. Mage opened this week as the 8-5 favorite to win the Preakness in Baltimore on Saturday and keep alive the possibility of a Triple Crown champion while questions swirl about what happened in Kentucky.

Co-owner Ramiro Restrepo, assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. and his father have insisted their focus remains on Mage, who seems happy and healthy.

“Everything is just routine,” Restrepo said Tuesday. “That’s the most important thing right now, just keeping him on his routine. He’s on schedule. He’s feeling good. Couldn’t be happier.”

Mage's team has settled in to a relatively quiet rhythm at Pimlico amid the noise around the sport and has been largely insulated from controversy. No one around Mage had no connection to any of the five horses who suffered fatal musculoskeletal injuries or Joseph's, who died of unknown causes to prompt the suspension.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher was also suspended last week in New York in the aftermath of Forte failing a postrace drug test last summer at Saratoga. Forte was the Derby favorite before being scratched hours before by Kentucky racing officials who expressed concern about a bruised right front foot and later put him on the vet's list.

With Forte not at the Preakness, Mage is favored in a field of eight horses that also includes Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure and Brad Cox's First Mission. They've also arrived at Pimlico, but Mage basically had the track to himself for a 1 1/2-mile gallop Tuesday.

“The track itself being so quiet, a few horses at the same time, that helps,” Gustavo Delgado Jr. said. “He thinks it’s some sort of spa for him at the moment. That’s good.”

Delgado said Mage continues to look “professional” on the track. Restrepo said nothing prep-wise is being done differently than the Derby, when Mage won as a 15-1 long shot.

"He’s just sticking to the program," he said. "The horse is just a really smart horse and is just doing everything right right now."

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