Preakness Stakes 2023: Horse euthanized hours before race after suffering injury, officials say

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One of the horses scheduled to run before today’s Preakness Stakes, the Bob Baffert-trained Havnameltdown, has been euthanized, after suffering a serious injury in an undercard race this afternoon, officials said.

The news comes just hours before the running of the second leg of the Triple Crown, and in the wake of the deaths of eight top racehorses in the past month.

“During the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico, the number one horse, Havnameltdown, sustained an injury and immediately received on-track medical attention from an expert team of veterinarians, led by Dr. Dionne Benson,” said 1/ST Racing, who own and operate Pimlico Race Course, in a news release, per CNN affiliate WMAR.

“During the subsequent evaluation, she observed a non-operable left fore fetlock injury. Due to the severity and prognosis of the injury, Dr. Benson and her counterparts made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Havnameltdown.”

Jockey Luis Saez was transported to a hospital for further evaluation, but he was stable and conscious, according to the Preakness Stakes organizers.

“We are just devastated,” Baffert said in a post on Twitter. “This is a shock to everyone at our barn who love and care for these horses every day. Hanvameltdown was obviously hit pretty hard coming out of the gate.”

“We don’t know if that contributed to the injury, but we will be fully transparent with those reviewing this terrible accident. Right now, our thoughts are with Luis Saez and we are hopeful he will be okay.”

Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer, returns to this year’s Preakness Stakes after serving a lengthy suspension from the sport.

The 70-year-old was banned from all three Triple Crown races last year after his horse, Medina Spirit, tested positive for betamethasone – an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid sometimes used to relieve joint pain – during the Kentucky Derby in 2021.

The two-time Triple Crown winner has been tangled in a legal battle ever since, but his horses are once again eligible to participate in the 148th running of the Preakness.

However, Baffert’s return coincides with a difficult time for the sport.

Eight horses died at Churchill Downs – home of the Kentucky Derby – last month, with questions around animal welfare overshadowing this year’s middle jewel of the Triple Crown – which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

The Preakness Stakes will take place on Saturday at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

It will air in the US on NBC, Peacock, the NBC website and its app with coverage of all of Saturday’s races.

The big race will start at 6:50 p.m. ET.

The odds are from the Preakness official website and are correct as of 7 a.m. ET on May 20.

  • National Treasure 3-1
  • Chase the Chaos 30-1
  • Mage 4-5
  • Coffeewithchris 20-1
  • Red Route One 8-1
  • Perform 12-1
  • Blazing Sevens 5-1

Any notion that this would be a triumphant return for Baffert were squashed by the trainer himself, who said the last year had been very difficult.

In an interview with The Athletic, Baffert said he wasn’t bitter from his suspension but argued that authorities “hung me out to dry.”

“What I went through, it wasn’t fun, but I just move forward. I don’t look back,” he said.

“We throw the word ‘doping’ around so loosely and no one corrects anyone. No one says anything. We don’t push back.

“We didn’t inject the horse. It was in an ointment. People in the industry understand, but we use that word, and no one corrects them.”

Julio Cortez/AP

Baffert’s entry National Treasure works out on May 17.

The controversy started after Medina Spirit, who died in December 2021, won the Kentucky Derby two years ago.

After the race, Baffert revealed that the horse had tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone.

Betamethasone is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that is allowed in horse racing at a certain level but that threshold had been crossed in Medina Spirit’s case.

In February 2022, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission announced its decision to disqualify Medina Spirit.

In total, Baffert received a two-year suspension from Churchill Downs, a one-year suspension from the New York Racing Association, and was suspended from the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes in Maryland.

However, Baffert is now eligible to compete in what he says is his favorite race.

Baffert’s horse, National Treasure, is among the favorites for this year’s spectacle but was drawn in the unfavored No. 1 post position.

If it can overcome the odds, though, Baffert will win a record-breaking eighth Preakness Stakes.

National Treasure’s biggest obstacle will come in the form of race favorite Mage.

Ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, the three-year-old chestnut colt won the Kentucky Derby in April and looks well placed to take the next step towards a coveted Triple Crown.

Julio Cortez/AP

Kentucky Derby winner Mage is the favorite for Saturday’s race.

“Everything that he did prior to the Derby has continued all the way through, so that type of consistency merits a shot at the Preakness,” Mage’s co-owner Ramiro Restrepo told reporters ahead of the race.

It was announced Friday that First Mission, one of the other favorites in the field, would be scratched from the race after owners Godolphin consulted the veterinary team.

“We are obviously very disappointed, but the welfare of the horse is our utmost concern, and we are going to take the necessary steps to determine the best course of action to get him back on the track,” Godolphin Director of Bloodstock Michael Banahan said.

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