Preakness Stakes: Nationwide Treasure Wins in Baffert’s Comeback

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Bob Baffert, essentially the most achieved and controversial horse coach in America, returned to the Triple Crown path on Saturday and watched his colt Nationwide Treasure win the 148th working 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 considered one of his horses died competing in an undercard race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

It was the form of afternoon that makes many People 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 group readily available and tv watchers couldn’t look on, and euthanized him by injection.

Credit score…Julia Nikhinson/Related Press

About 5 hours later, a jubilant Baffert was preventing again tears as he talked about Nationwide 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 document by R. Wyndham Walden, a coach of the late nineteenth century. It was the primary Preakness win for the Corridor of Fame rider John Velazquez, a obvious gap in a résumé crammed with marquee wins.

“This enterprise is twists and turns, ups and downs,” Baffert mentioned after Nationwide Treasure gained. “Shedding that horse at the moment actually harm. I’m very joyful for Johnny that he received the win. It’s been a really emotional day.”

Nationwide Treasure lined 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’s been awhile,” 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 positively lacking.”

Baffert, 70, skilled Medina Spirit, who gained the 2021 Kentucky Derby however failed a take a look at 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 all of the sudden the next December, presumably 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. Final 12 months, Baffert was serving his Kentucky suspension throughout the Triple Crown, so the racing commissions in Maryland and New York saved him from the Preakness and the Belmont.

Credit score…Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Solar, through Related Press
Credit score…Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Solar, through Related Press
Credit score…Tommy Gilligan/USA In the present day Sports activities, through Reuters

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 group led by Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer for the corporate that owns Pimlico.

“Throughout the subsequent analysis, she noticed a non-operable left fore fetlock damage,” the corporate, the Stronach Group, mentioned in an announcement, referring to a joint within the horse’s foreleg. “As a result of severity and prognosis of the damage, Dr. Benson and her counterparts made the tough resolution to humanely euthanize Havnameltdown.”

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

Velazquez, the Corridor of Famer who rode Nationwide Treasure, mentioned he was rocked by the dying on the racetrack.

“In truth, 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 whenever you see it. It’s laborious to remain centered 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 additional scrutiny was prolonged to each horse competing over the weekend. Officers 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.

Credit score…Mitch Stringer/USA In the present day Sports activities through Reuters

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 this stuff 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 Security Authority, created by Congress beneath the supervision of the Federal Commerce Fee, which is able to turn into the ruling physique of the game on Monday.

Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice chairman of Folks for the Moral Therapy 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 observe,” she mentioned.

Melissa Hoppert contributed reporting.

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