National Treasure rumbled to victory at the 148th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, topping Kentucky Derby winner Mage and capping another sad day in the beleaguered sport.
Earlier on Saturday before National Treasure’s big win, tragedy struck the sport of kings again as Havnameltdown broke down and threw jockey Luis Saez at the top of the stretch of the $200,000 Grade IIII Chick Lang Stakes.
Havnameltdown’s injury to his left front ankle was so severe, the colt was put down on the spot.
The tragedy in the sixth race comes in the wake of a string of equine deaths leading up to the Kentucky Derby earlier this month at Churchill Downs.
Eight horses died in a little more than a week at the famed Louisville course, raising concerns about the sport’s treatments of its animals.
The death cast a pall on the biggest annual day of Maryland racing, as Mage had sought to win the Triple Crown.
Both Havnameltdown and National Treasure are trained by Hall of Fame member Bob Baffert.
The victory marked a record-setting eight Preakness wins for Baffert, who missed the last running of the race because of a suspension.
“This business is twists and turns, the ups and downs,” he said.
The trainer’s voice cracked as he spoke in the moments after the win.
“Losing that horse today really hurt. But I’m happy for Johnny,” Baffert said, referring to winning jockey John R. Velazquez. “He got the win. I have a great team. … I’m sorry, but it’s been a very emotional day.”
With National Treasure’s triumph, the list of Triple Crown winners will remain 13 as Mage’s bid for horse racing history came up short in Baltimore.
Justify, in 2018, was the last one to accomplish the feat.
Mage’s assistant trainer, Gustavo Delgado Jr., didn’t seem too disappointed after the race.
“Still won the Derby,” he said. “Nobody’s going to take this. We still like the horse, and we’re going to beat ’em later on.”
The Charm City day belonged to National Treasure, who delivered an eighth Preakness win for Baffert and first blanket of Black-Eyed Susans to jockey Velazquez.
“Not having one of these ones, it was definitely missing,” he said of his first Preakness win among four Kentucky Derby and two Belmont Stakes victories. “So it’s very special to have it.”
National Treasure jumped out early and took advantage of a slow pace, as the colt had just enough to hold off a spirited charge from Blazing Sevens.
The 7-5 favorite Mage appeared to be in position to rally for victory, but he couldn’t find that next gear down the stretch and finished with show money.
National Treasure was the betting public’s second pick at 5-2 and a $2 win wager on the colt brought back $7.80.
The final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is set for June 10, just outside New York City.
Dennis Romero contributed.