Bob Baffert’s National Treasure wins Preakness as embattled trainer takes his 17th Triple Crown race

Bob Baffert’s National Treasure won Saturday’s Preakness, handing the embattled trainer his 17th career Triple Crown victory on what started out as a tragic day.

Hours earlier, another of Baffert’s three-year-olds, Havnameltdown, suffered a fatal left leg injury in a preliminary race.

It was another dark moment for a sport already reeling from the deaths of seven horses at Churchill Downs in the 10-day span before the Kentucky Derby.

In the main event, National Treasure, the 5-2 second choice, held off the Blazing Sevens down the stretch to win the 1 3/16 mile, $1.65 million a head race.

Derby winner Mage finished third in the Preakness after receiving stitches around the eye for a scratch that reportedly took place on his stall. Mage’s loss means there won’t be a Triple Crown winner for the fifth year in a row.

Bob Baffert's National Treasure won the Preakness, giving him 17 Triple Crown victories

Bob Baffert’s National Treasure won the Preakness, giving him 17 Triple Crown victories

National Treasure, right, with jockey John Velázquez, beats Blazing Sevens

National Treasure, right, with jockey John Velázquez, beats Blazing Sevens

National Treasure, right, with jockey John Velázquez, beats Blazing Sevens

Jockey John Velazquez #1 riding National Treasure crosses the finish line to win the Preakness

Jockey John Velazquez #1 riding National Treasure crosses the finish line to win the Preakness

Jockey John Velazquez #1 riding National Treasure crosses the finish line to win the Preakness

Jockey John Velázquez won the Preakness for the first time on his 12th attempt.

“It’s been a while,” Velázquez said. “The success I had in other races, not winning this one, was definitely missing, it’s very special to have it.”

Baffert had a roller coaster day returning to Pimlico Race Course after a suspension that prevented him from entering a horse in the Preakness last year. The excitement of National Treasure’s Preakness and Arabian Lion victories in an earlier stakes race was contrasted with Havnameltdown’s agony of death.

The jockey Luis Sáez was conscious and was transported to a local hospital for treatment. A team of veterinarians determined that the injury to Havnameltdown’s left front leg was inoperable.

Black barriers were placed on the dirt road while the horse was slaughtered. Meanwhile, 2Pac’s ‘California Love’ blared from the infield speakers at what purports to be an annual day-long celebration of thoroughbred racing.

PETA criticized Baffert, claiming that “75 horses in his care have died” following news that another of his horses was euthanized at the track during the Preakness undercard on Saturday.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of the animal rights group, criticized the organizers of the Triple Crown race for giving Baffert access to the track.

The latest controversy surrounding the 75-year-old comes just two months after a federal judge denied Baffert’s request to lift his two-year suspension by Kentucky Derby coordinators, who the Hall of Famer trainer Fama described it as a kind of “cultural cancellation”. ‘ in 2021.

“Pimlico should have followed the example of Churchill Downs and excluded Bob Baffert from the track,” Guillermo told DailyMail.com exclusively. ‘Baffert has been implicated in drug scandals, the deaths of seven horses that collapsed in California and at least 75 horses under his care have died.

‘Havnameltdown’s tragic death is the latest in a long series of deaths. The racing industry must kick out the bad guys or they will have blood on their hands and blood on their tracks.”

In the evening, Baffert was celebrated for winning the Preakness for a record eighth time, breaking a tie with 19th century trainer R. Wyndham Walden. In 2018, Baffert matched Walden with seven wins at the Baltimore race with Justify, who became the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner, and Baffert’s second, after American Pharoah ended a long drought in the sport in 2015.

This was Baffert’s first Preakness in two years due to a ban stemming from 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s failed drug test leading to a disqualification in that race. Medina Spirit was Baffert’s most recent Preakness horse and he finished third.

Baffert did not arrive in Baltimore until Thursday of this week, seeking to keep a lower profile than usual given the questions that have dogged him and tarnished his reputation. A longtime Hall of Famer and face of horse racing, Baffert tried to get past his suspension when asked Friday.

“We keep moving forward,” he said. We have other horses to worry about. A lot of it is noise, so keep the noise out and keep working.’

While horse racing deaths in the US are at their lowest level since tracking began in 2009, adding another at the track that hosts a Triple Crown race will only intensify internal and external scrutiny of the industry. Those inside have said they accept the reality of horse deaths at the track while acknowledging that more work needs to be done to prevent as many as possible.

In that sense, the new national rules on medication and doping will come into force on Monday. The federally mandated Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which already regulated racetrack safety and other measures, will oversee horse drug testing requirements that should standardize the sport across the country for the first time. .

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