Baffert’s National Treasure Wins Preakness After Another Horse Is Fatally Injured

Bob Baffert, essentially the most achieved and controversial horse coach in America, returned to the Triple Crown path on Saturday and watched his colt National Treasure win the 148th operating of the Preakness Stakes. The victory got here after Baffert’s two-year ban from the game’s premier stage due to a doping violation, and hours after one other certainly one of his horses died competing in an undercard race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

It was the sort of afternoon that makes many Americans marvel how lengthy America’s oldest sport can proceed to have its social license renewed.

Earlier within the afternoon, one other of Baffert’s 3-year-old colts, Havnameltdown, buckled across the far flip within the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes, tumbled to the bottom and unseated his rider Luis Saez.

In a grim scene that recalled the seven horses that died within the days resulting in the Kentucky Derby, veterinarians swarmed to the distressed colt, erected a display screen so the gang available and tv watchers couldn’t look on, and euthanized him by injection.

About 5 hours later, a jubilant Baffert was preventing again tears as he talked about National Treasure, who edged out Blazing Sevens by a head. The Kentucky Derby winner Mage, compromised by a sluggish tempo, completed third.

The victory was Baffert’s eighth within the second leg of the Triple Crown, breaking a report by R. Wyndham Walden, a coach of the late nineteenth century. It was the primary Preakness win for the Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, a obvious gap in a résumé stuffed with marquee wins.

“This enterprise is twists and turns, ups and downs,” Baffert mentioned after the National Treasure win. “Losing that horse in the present day actually damage. I’m very glad for Johnny that he received the win. It’s been a really emotional day.”

National Treasure coated the mile and three-sixteenths in 1 minute 55.12 seconds and rewarded his backers with $7.80 on a $2 wager to win within the $1.65 million race.

“Gosh, it has been some time,” Velazquez mentioned of his long-sought victory. “With all of the blessings that I’ve had and all of the success I’ve had in different races, not having gained this one was undoubtedly lacking.”

Baffert, 70, educated Medina Spirit, who gained the 2021 Kentucky Derby however failed a take a look at for a prohibited drug, turning into solely the second horse within the Derby’s historical past to have his victory revoked due to a drug violation. The colt died abruptly the next December, probably from a coronary heart assault. A necropsy carried out by California state veterinarians was inconclusive.

Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner, has since served a suspension handed down by Kentucky regulators and a two-year ban from the Derby and its host, Churchill Downs. Last 12 months, Baffert was serving his Kentucky suspension through the Triple Crown, so the racing commissions in Maryland and New York saved him from the Preakness and the Belmont.

His triumphant return to Pimlico was marred by the loss of life of Havnameltdown. The horse was euthanized by veterinarians on the racetrack after being examined by a workforce led by Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer for the corporate that owns Pimlico.

“During the next analysis, she noticed a non-operable left fore fetlock harm,” the corporate, the Stronach Group, mentioned in an announcement, referring to a joint within the horse’s foreleg. “Due to the severity and prognosis of the harm, Dr. Benson and her counterparts made the tough choice to humanely euthanize Havnameltdown.”

Saez, Havnameltdown’s rider, was transported to Sinai Hospital in Baltimore after complaining of leg ache. He was in secure situation and aware, in line with the corporate.

Velazquez, the Hall of Famer who rode National Treasure, mentioned he was rocked by loss of life on the racetrack.

“Truthfully, it felt like a knife to my coronary heart once I noticed it,” Velazquez mentioned of the accidents to the horse and his counterpart, Saez. “It’s devastating once you see it. It’s laborious to remain targeted and maintain going.”

After the deaths at Churchill Downs forward of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness officers took a cautious strategy to pre-race examinations. First Mission, the 5-2 second selection within the morning line, was scratched from the race early Friday morning with an unspecified left hind-ankle harm.

The additional scrutiny was prolonged to each horse competing over the weekend. Officials required two veterinary authorizations earlier than a horse was allowed to run — one from the coach’s personal vet, the opposite from the regulatory vet within the state the place the horse was stabled earlier than coming to Baltimore.

Stronach Group officers declined to remark about how Havnameltdown was cleared to run within the race regardless of the additional analysis.

Baffert, too, had no rationalization.

“It’s the worst feeling,” Baffert mentioned Saturday. “And we grieve. We do grieve when these items occur. There’s nothing worse than coming again and the stall is empty.”

Animal rights activists blamed the game’s house owners and trainers for a lackadaisical effort to guard horses.

They pointed to the opposition of horsemen’s teams to the newly minted Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, created by Congress underneath the supervision of the Federal Trade Commission, which is able to turn into the ruling physique of the game on Monday.

Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice chairman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, mentioned that the drug violations and fatalities amongst horses in Baffert’s care demanded better scrutiny.

“Pimlico ought to have adopted Churchill Downs’ instance and barred Bob Baffert from the monitor,” she mentioned.

Melissa Hoppert contributed reporting.

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