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Brad Cox Counting On Luis Saez To Show First Mission The Way | 2023 Preakness Stakes News
First Mission (Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Brad Cox Counting On Luis Saez To Show First Mission The Way | 2023 Preakness Stakes News

There has been a lot of talk about the field for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) lacking speed, which would be fine with trainer Brad Cox, who says he’d be OK if Stonestreet Lexington (G3) winner First Mission goes to the front “if they weren’t going too quick. If they slow it down, yeah, you’d like to be right there.”

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With only three races to go by, Cox said he’s not sure First Mission’s best running style.

“I think he’s pretty honest,” he said. “He does wear a small set of blinkers. But listen, if we could track one or two, that would be the ideal trip.”

First Mission, owned and bred by Godolphin, drew Post 8 in the field of eight, which should give jockey Luis Saez plenty options.

“I think we’ll get a good trip,” Cox said. “I’m hopeful he breaks as well Saturday as he did in the Lexington and gets a good forward position. Luis is a great rider all around, but he’s exceptional away from the gate and getting early position. We’ll see how it unfolds going into the first turn. It’s ultimately up to Luis where he’s going to place him and where he’s happy with him, but he’s doing great. He should be able to do what he needs to do.”

Cox started out handicapping horses as a youngster growing up near Churchill Downs. Asked how handicappers should size up First Mission in comparison to Preakness favorite Mage, another unraced 2-year-old who won the Kentucky Derby (G1) off three lifetime starts and without a prior stakes victory, Cox laughed.

“I don’t know how you compare them. I guess that would be a question for a really good handicapper,” he said. “Look, I think our horse, just based off his physical and his pedigree, should get better with distance. He’s going from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and three-sixteenths. Mage is actually backing up in distance, and he obviously has got a pedigree that can get a mile and a quarter and a mile and three-sixteenths.

“I think we might be a little quicker away from there and in the game a little bit, more forwardly placed than Mage.”