What to expect at the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown

The Preakness Stakes will have a Triple Crown possibility on the line when Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan runs in the field of eight horses on Saturday in the 149th rendition of the race.

Mystik Dan is coming off winning the Derby by a nose in that race’s closest finish since 1947. Bob Baffert-trained Imagination and Brad Cox’s Catching Freedom appear to be the most formidable challenges in the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Muth, who opened as the favorite, was scratched Wednesday after spiking a fever.

When is the race?

Post time for the Preakness is 6:50 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

What’s the forecast?

Rain throughout the early morning through afternoon hours Saturday, making a sloppy, muddy track a strong possibility. It’s expected to be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) when the horses leave the starting gate.

How to watch

Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday, headlined by the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies just before 6 p.m. (available on Peacock).

Coverage Saturday starts with undercard races beginning at 1:30 p.m. (CNBC, Peacock). The broadcast shifts to NBC at 4:30 p.m., with NBC Sports Audio (channel 85 on SiriusXM radio and the SiriusXM app) also beginning at that time. Telemundo Deportes will have Derby coverage in Spanish starting at 6:30 p.m. on Universo, and streaming on TelemundoDeportes.com and the Telemundo app.

What to watch

The Preakness has long been just as much a party as an American classic horse race. The infield, a scene that varies from Kentucky Derby-esque with fancy dresses, hats and cocktails to a concert stage and food and beer stands, will also have a post-race performance by Jack Harlow.

Who are the favorites?

Muth, who was ineligible to run in the Derby because of Churchill Downs’ ban on Baffert, was installed as the 8-5 favorite but spiked a 103 degree F (40 degree C) fever upon arriving at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Mystik Dan, initially the 5-2 second choice, figures to become the favorite with Imagination and Catching Freedom, who has been feisty on the track this week, not far behind after each opening at 6-1.

What does the winner get?

The purse was upped this year to $2 million from $1.5 million, with the winner also taking home the Woodlawn Vase.

Go deeper

Horse racing continues to try to find solutions to a spate of deaths that stunned the sport last year, including one trained by Baffert who died at Pimlico hours before National Treasure gave him a record-breaking eighth Preakness victory.

The sport is at a crossroads because of safety questions and with reforms already underway, and Pimlico and Belmont Park are being torn down and rebuilt in the coming years as state-of-the-art facilities. And while racing is trying to adapt to the modern era with smaller tracks, viewership is still strong for the big days, including the biggest TV audience for the Kentucky Derby in 35 years.

Those viewers watching from afar or at Churchill Downs saw jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. deliver a flawless, rail-skimming ride to get Mystik Dan to the finish line just ahead of Sierra Leone and Forever Young. He will look for a second victory in a Triple Crown race back aboard in the Preakness.

This is the final Preakness before a massive, $400 million Pimlico reconstruction project begins early next year. The race will be held in Baltimore again next year in whatever state the track is in before moving to Laurel Park in 2026 with a return to Pimlico scheduled for 2027.