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 one among his horses died competing in an undercard race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
It was the type 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 combating again tears as he talked about National Treasure, who edged out Blazing Sevens by a head. The Kentucky Derby winner Mage, compromised by a gradual tempo, completed third.
The victory was Baffert’s eighth within the second leg of the Triple Crown, breaking a file 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 evident 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 immediately actually harm. I’m very joyful for Johnny that he acquired 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 guess 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 received this one was undoubtedly lacking.”
Baffert, 70, educated Medina Spirit, who received the 2021 Kentucky Derby however failed a check for a prohibited drug, changing into solely the second horse within the Derby’s historical past to have his victory revoked due to a drug violation. The colt died out of the blue 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 yr, Baffert was serving his Kentucky suspension throughout the Triple Crown, so the racing commissions in Maryland and New York stored him from the Preakness and the Belmont.
His triumphant return to Pimlico was marred by the dying of Havnameltdown. The horse was euthanized by veterinarians on the racetrack after being examined by a staff led by Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer for the corporate that owns Pimlico.
“During the following analysis, she noticed a non-operable left fore fetlock damage,” the corporate, the Stronach Group, mentioned in a press release, referring to a joint within the horse’s foreleg. “Due to the severity and prognosis of the damage, Dr. Benson and her counterparts made the troublesome resolution 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 acutely aware, based on the corporate.
Velazquez, the Hall of Famer who rode National Treasure, mentioned he was rocked by dying on the racetrack.
“Truthfully, it felt like a knife to my coronary heart after I noticed it,” Velazquez mentioned of the accidents to the horse and his counterpart, Saez. “It’s devastating while you see it. It’s arduous to remain targeted and hold going.”
After the deaths at Churchill Downs forward of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness officers took a cautious method 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 damage.
The further 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 non-public 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 clarification.
“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 homeowners 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 can grow to be the ruling physique of the game on Monday.
Kathy Guillermo, a senior vp of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, mentioned that the drug violations and fatalities amongst horses in Baffert’s care demanded larger scrutiny.
“Pimlico ought to have adopted Churchill Downs’ instance and barred Bob Baffert from the observe,” she mentioned.
Melissa Hoppert contributed reporting.