After a two-year hiatus, Baffert returned and led the charge in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, clinching a $65.1 million victory on Saturday. Sevens Blazing made a late surge but couldn’t catch up, while Treasure National, trained by Baffert, maintained the lead and crossed the finish line first.
Baffert stated, “You endure numerous criticisms.” It is challenging to remain strong in this game. That is why we work so hard.
John Velazquez, the jockey for Treasure National, covered 3/16 miles in a fast track and won, earning a payout of $7.80 at 1:55.12.
Mage, the champion of the Kentucky Derby, came in third place, 2 ¼ lengths behind Blazing Sevens.
Havnameltdown, trained by Bob Baffert, was sadly euthanized after the Preakness Stakes race.
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Javier Castellano, the Mage jockey, expressed, “The competition concluded, and they accelerated. I was unable to overtake those two other horses, but my horse reacted. It is challenging to catch up with a horse that trails behind, lacking velocity in the race.”
Baffert picked up his record eighth victory in the Preakness, breaking a tie with R. Wyndham Walden, who won seven from 1875-88.
Baffert’s recent suspensions were not due to his increasing number of victories, but he has now triumphed in the Triple Crown 17 times, winning the Belmont three times and the Kentucky Derby six times.
During the Kentucky Derby races in 2022, all three Triple Crown races, including the Belmont in 2021, were overshadowed by the suspensions of Baffert, the trainer from New York’s Racing Association, and the Churchill Downs. This was due to a positive test for the banned substance betamethasone, which ultimately led to the disqualification of Medina Spirit, the horse that initially crossed the finish line first under Baffert’s guidance.
During the Grade 3 Stakes race on Saturday, Havnameltdown suffered another breakdown and had to be euthanized on the track. This unfortunate incident occurred earlier and was a blow to Baffert.
Baffert expressed, “It’s really heartbreaking to lose a horse… It’s really painful to see the horse lose today… We have completely been wiped out.” Ups and downs, twists and turns, this is the nature of the business.
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Treasure National was able to settle fractions of three-quarters in 1:13.49 and half-mile in 48.92 seconds, and quarter-mile in 23.95 seconds. In an attempt to improve his focus, he wore blinkers for the first time and broke from the first gate.
Baffert stated that Velazquez, who achieved his initial Preakness triumph, is a member of the Hall of Fame. “Whenever Johnny is riding my horse, I invariably possess a sense of assurance.”
Blazing Sevens briefly gained the advantage on the outside of National Treasure but was unable to maintain it, and eventually drew level with a furlong remaining.
Chad Brown, the trainer of Blazing Sevens, expressed, “That’s the nature of horse racing. The journey didn’t go exactly as planned. … I anticipated there would be a bit more pressure, but I was aware that the race lacked speed. The victorious horse demonstrated immense determination in making a comeback, so it’s only fair to acknowledge its merits.”
Competing in the Preakness, Citation emerged as the sole Kentucky Derby contender in 1948. He emerged victorious in both races, thereby achieving the prestigious Triple Crown. Mage, having previously participated in the Kentucky Derby, became the first horse in 75 years to partake in the initial Preakness.
The Preakness on Saturday had the smallest field of seven horses since 1986, when Snow Chief won in a seven-horse race.
Donovan Catherine and Capital Edge Waves, Schoenfarber Jay, Stables Stonestreet, Masterson Robert, Stables Madaket, Racing Starlight, and Racing SF have seen an improvement in Treasure National’s career start with a record of 2-1-2 in six starts under group ownership.
Baffert was unable to earn qualifying points towards the Kentucky Derby due to his suspension, so he entered the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in an attempt to earn points. He finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and then transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, his 2-year-old son, Road Quality, closed his campaign with a third-place finish.
Baffert was unsure whether National Treasure would head to the final leg of the Triple Crown — the Belmont on June 10.
Baffert stated, “We will assess his condition after the race.” Velazquez mentioned that he had difficulty slowing him down. He allowed him to pass by him too easily, which he did not expect. It will be interesting to observe the impact of this challenging race on him. He appeared to be exhausted after the race, but overall, he performed exceptionally well.