Baffert headed to the winner’s circle the same day his colt Havnameltdown went down with a fatal left leg injury in the undercard race.

BALTIMORE — Bob Baffert’s national treasure has won Preakness Bets on Saturday, ending Mag’s Triple Crown bid after the trainer’s return from a layoff — and just hours after another of his 3-year-old horses was euthanized at the track.

Baffert headed to the winner’s circle the same day his colt Havnameltdown went down with a fatal left leg injury in the undercard race. Baffert said he and his team were shocked.

“This business is all about ups and downs,” Baffert said, fighting back tears. “And then to win, it’s very painful to lose a horse today… It was a very emotional day.

The fatality marks another dark moment for a sport already reeling from the deaths of seven horses at Churchill Downs in the 10-day period leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Derby winner Madge finished third in the Preakness after being made 7-5 favourite. His defeat means that there will be no Triple Crown winner for the fifth consecutive year.

National Treasure, the 5-2 second choice, held off the tight Blazing Sevens to win the 1 3/16-mile race by a margin of $1.65 million.

Jockey John Velazquez won the Preakness for the first time in his 12th attempt.

“It’s been a long time,” Velasquez said. “The success I’ve had in other races without winning this one – it’s definitely been missing, it’s so special to have it.”

Baffert had a roller-coaster day as he returned to Pimlico after a suspension that kept him out of the Preakness last year. The thrill of National Treasure’s victories in the Preakness and Arabian Lion in earlier stakes races contrasted with the death agony of Havnameltdown.

Jockey Luis Saez was conscious and taken to a local hospital for treatment. The veterinary team determined that the injury to Hawnamelddown’s left front leg was inoperable.

Black barriers stood on the dirt track while the horse was put down. All the while, 2Pac’s “California Love” blared from the indoor speakers at the annual day-long celebration of thoroughbred racing.

By evening, Baffert had won 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 in the Baltimore race with Justify, the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner — and Baffert’s second since American Pharoah ended a long drought for the sport in 2015.

It was Baffert’s first Preakness in two years due to a ban stemming from a failed drug test on 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, which led to his disqualification from that race. Medina Spirit was Baffert’s final Preakness horse, finishing third.

Baffert didn’t arrive in Baltimore until Thursday this week, trying to keep a lower profile than usual given the questions that have dogged him and clouded his reputation. A Hall of Famer and longtime face of horse racing, Baffert was eager to get past his suspension when asked Friday.

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

While horse racing deaths in the U.S. are at their lowest level since they began being tracked in 2009, adding another track to host the Triple Crown will only increase internal and external scrutiny of the industry. Those inside said they accept the reality of horse deaths on the track and also recognize that more work needs to be done to prevent as many as possible.

In this sense, the new national drug and doping rules will come into force on Monday. The federal Horse Racing Safety and Integrity Commissioner, which already regulates racetrack safety and other measures, will oversee drug-testing requirements for horses, which should standardize the sport nationwide for the first time.

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