BALTIMORE – And so the troubled sport of horse racing came on a warm and still May Saturday to crumbling old Pimlico Race Course, to have itself defined at the distant extremes of grief and euphoria by a pair of three-year-old bay colts, bought for a total of $700,000 by separate groups of people with very big dreams and even bigger means.
One horse named Havnameltdown, whose ankle snapped in flight, and who was put to death in the deep dirt on the far turn, behind an impotent black screen that shielded neither humans nor horses from the reality of the moment, while party music thundered in the background, and who was carted away in a big white wagon that’s always called a horse ambulance even though sometimes it’s a horse hearse. It was as bad as it gets.
And one named National Treasure, who more than five hours later went to the lead straight from the starting gate in the 148th running of the Preakness, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, a good horse who nevertheless had won just one of his five races, with a slender – even more slender than most – 51-year-old jockey named John Velazquez straddling his back, making magic with his soft hands in pursuit of victory in one of the few great American races he had not already won. Together, man and horse navigating the oval as if trying not to make any noise, doling out speed and effort only as it was needed until in the end there was just enough to hold off Blazing Sevens in a sensational stretch duel, part race and rodeo, and relegate Kentucky Derby winner Mage to third place, meaning that there will be no Triple Crown on the line in the June 10 Belmont Stakes. It was as good as it gets.
And. There was more. Impossibly more, because context is everything and on Saturday at Pimlico there was more context than beer.
Both Havnameltdown’s death, statistically barely significant, yet in the moment both powerfully meaningful, gutting and likely unforgettable for most who witnessed it; and National Treasure’s victory came 14 days after the Derby, in which Mage’s win came at the end of 10 days in which seven horses died at Churchill Downs, and a record five were scratched from the body of the race, the most in nearly a century. The sport was reeling.
And the kicker: Both Havnameltdown and National Treasure are – well, were and are – trained by Bob Baffert, the 70-year-old, white-haired, shades-wearing Californian who less than a decade ago was the face, voice, and substance of racing, the sport riding on his shoulders, with two Triple Crowns – American Pharoah in 2015, ending a 37-year-drought; and Justify in 2018. But who, with the disqualification of Medina Spirit, crossed the finish line first in the 2021 Derby but failed a post-race drug test (this is all still in litigation), as the most recent in a series of drug positives and questionable explanations (which he still stands by), became the face, instead, of a sport in deep trouble.
Which is why, 55 minutes before the starting gate opened for the Preakness, Baffert stood outdoors in fading sunlight, near National Treasure’s stall in the Preakness stakes barn, and said, “This… game… is… brutal.” And… complicated. (Keep reading). He watched the Preakness from Pimlico’s ancient indoor saddling paddock, where he had watched on a small, 1990’s vintage TV as the track washed away in a thunderstorm minutes before Pharoah’s victory; and where on the same little screen he struggled to find Justify running through the fog three years later. There is a bigger TV now, mounted high on a wall. But Baffert seemed somehow and almost purposefully smaller, his reputation (although not the power of his stable) diminished by the events of the last three years even as he fights to recapture it. (The long-delayed Horse Racing Safety and Integrity Act – HISA – goes into effect Monday, just in the nick of time, or much too late. We’ll see.)
Baffert was flanked by two of the sons who were often with him on the Triple Crown runs: Bode, 18; and Forrest, 33. “My boys,” Baffert would say after the race (he has two other sons, and a daughter). His wife, Jill, was nearby. Much of the scene could have been clipped from ’15 or ’18, but that is misleading, because nothing is the same as in those years (not for Baffert, not for those who have chronicled his work, and not for the sport, writ large, all of whom are scarred). And the memory of Havnameltdown hung in the air.
It was five-and-a half-hours earlier, in the sixth race, when Havnameltdown, a 3-year-old bay colt making his first start in three months, and favored at 4-5 odds to win the Chick Lang Stakes, a six-furlong sprint, moved astride Ryvit exiting at the far turn leaving the three-eighths pole, as the crowd rose for the pitched battle soon to follow. Baffert had already won a race on the card, a dominant four-length victory by Arabian Lion in the fourth race. This looked to be another one. “He was rolling,” Baffert would say later. “Looked like he was going to win.” Abruptly, Havnameltdown bobbled once, and then twice, his head dipping awkwardly toward the earth – always an ominous sign – before pitching hideously forward, heaving jockey Luis Saez over his neck and onto the track, and then trying to do the thing for which he was given life: To run. But he did not run. He staggered. The crowd gasped as one, another sound that once heard, is never forgotten.
Two ambulances arrived, a small one for the jockey and a big one for the horse. As W.C. Heinz wrote 74 years ago in the too-often quoted and stubbornly relevant Death Of A Racehorse, “There was a station wagon moving around the track toward them, and then, in a moment, the big green van that they call the horse ambulance.” Those two makeshift black curtains were held up by track workers, ostensibly – to create a barrier between the audience and the activity, which is that Havnameltdown was found to have a “non-operable left fore fetlock injury,” (in human terms, a severely broken ankle) and was euthanized. Saez was taken to the hospital reporting leg pain; Baffert said later that Saez is “okay.”
We are just devastated. 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…
— Bob Baffert (@BobBaffert) May 20, 2023(Video) Preakness Stakes Webinar 2023
There was a time – not that long ago – when a breakdown might have played more like an inconvenience. That time has passed, and the world has grown more sensitive to racing’s central paradox: Horses do not choose to race, and sometimes die (although there has been improvement in the last decade, from more than two deaths per one thousand starts, to 1.25 last year; it will never be zero).Havnameltdown’s death threw a pall over the day. Baffert said, “It’s the most sickening feeling a trainer can have. And we grieve when it happens. You just hate to go back and see that empty stall. We will feel bad about it for a while.” Baffert’s grief is surely real. But the larger reality is that Baffert will have to earn back trust in areas of horse safety and welfare from a large part of the public. He (and his wife) will view that as unfair, and time may prove it so. But this is today’s reality.
After Medina Spirit’s Derby DQ (again, still in the courts, and Baffert could eventually win. The outcome might lie years in the future), Baffert was handed a laundry list of punishments, including a two-year ban from the Derby (which he has won six – or seven – times), and a ban last year from all three Triple Crown races. The Preakness was Baffert’s return to the sport’s biggest stage, and that narrative was no less central than Mage’s attempt to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Poor Mage.
Just seven horses started the Preakness, the smallest field since 1986; Mage was the only Kentucky Derby starter to roll back in the Preakness, the first time that’s happened since Triple Crown winner Citation was the only Derby winner that started in the 1948 Preakness. None of this will be engraved on the trophy. Mage went off as the 8-5 favorite; National Treasure was 3-1.
Velazquez started National Treasure from the inside post, never a good spot, but less damning in such a small field. National Treasure had raced five times, but just once since January, a dull fourth-place finish in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby, a key Kentucky Derby prep. He seemed to be a respectable, but unspectacular colt. Johnny V, as he is known in the game, nudged National Treasure into the lead and several paths out from the rail, forcing others to pass wide or risk an inside move. Then he nursed the pace: 23.95 seconds for the first quarter, 48.92 for a half-mile, a crawling 1:13.49 for three quarters. “I knew there wasn’t a lot of speed,” said Velazquez. “So I pumped it to the outside and if those other horses wanted to go faster, I would let them go.”
None did, a miscalculation that left National Treasure in control of the race. Longshot Coffeewithchris ran with him early. Mage dawdled in fourth, not challenging. “No speed in the race, horses were going easy,” said Gustavo Delgado, Jr. assistant to his father, who trains Mage. “Those horses, you don’t beat them with that pace.”
It was Blazing Sevens who made the big run. Ridden by reigning Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by two-time Preakness winner Chad Brown, Blazing Sevens hooked National Treasure in the stretch, and they bumped each other several times, rough riding; but could not pass. “The key was Johnny slowing the pace on the backstretch,” said Ortiz. “Just could not get past him.”
National Treasure dipped his head at the wire, stretching what looked like a nose to a very short, official head. In the dank, dark paddock, Baffert threw his head back and was embraced by his sons. Over against a wall, Jill Baffert wept. It was a nice moment, in a very small bottle, a slice of what had been and what makes the sport breathe. But it was just a moment, while Havnameltdown is just a memory. Much work lies ahead.
Tim Layden is writer-at-large for NBC Sports. He was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for 25 years.
How can I watch the 2023 Preakness Stakes? ›
Watch the 2023 Preakness Stakes on NBC
CNBC will air races from 1 p.m. ET to 4:30 p.m. ET. Full race coverage can be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
What time is Preakness Stakes 2023? The 2023 Preakness is set for Saturday, May 20, and has an approximate post time of 7:01 p.m.Why was horse euthanized at Preakness? ›
BALTIMORE (AP) — A horse trained by Bob Baffert was euthanized on the track because of a leg injury during the undercard at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, several hours before another one of the Hall of Famer's 3-year-old colts, National Treasure, won the Preakness Stakes.What is the distance and time of the Preakness? ›
Recent News. Preakness Stakes, a 13/16-mile (about 1,900-metre) flat race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., annually in mid-May.Who will broadcast the Belmont Stakes in 2023? ›
With the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in our rearview, horse racing fans and bettors now look forward to the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. The big race will be broadcast on FOX and the FOX Sports App.Where can I watch the Preakness Stakes? ›
Pre-race coverage will air on CNBC and stream on Peacock from 1-4:30 p.m. Coverage of the main race will air on NBC and stream on Peacock from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Official post time for the Preakness Stakes race is 6:50 p.m.What horses are running in the 2023 Preakness Stakes? ›
|Red Route One||10-1||5|
|Chase The Chaos||50-1||2|
Here are the Preakness payouts for the exacta, trifecta and superfecta exotics: Exacta: 1-7 | $1 exacta paid $15.90. Trifecta: 1-7-3 | $1 trifecta paid $24.20. Superfecta: 1-7-3-5 | $1 superfecta paid $72.40.What jockey won the Preakness 2023? ›
Preakness 2023: Final Results, Standings, Payouts and Replay Highlights. The second leg of the 2023 Triple Crown is over. National Treasure won it, as jockey John Velazquez claimed his first victory at the Preakness Stakes.What killed Secretariat the horse? ›
Secretariat died in 1989 due to laminitis at age 19.
Why did they put Secretariat down? ›
Dr. Swerczek emphasized that Secretariat's laminitis was the worst case he had ever seen. There was no chance of a cure or improvement, they had done the right thing for the horse by humanely euthanizing him.What horse died before the Preakness? ›
A horse was euthanized on the track at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday after the Chick Lang Stakes ahead of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. Havnameltdown, who is trained by Bob Baffert, was racing strong toward the front of the pack when he stumbled around a turn. Jockey Luis Saez fell off and tumbled to the ground.What is the fastest Preakness time ever? ›
Records. Speed record: 13⁄16 miles (1.91km) – 1:53 – Secretariat (1973)Who holds the fastest Preakness time? ›
Secretariat maintained the top spot all the way to the finish line while setting a record-time finish at the Pimlico Race Course at 1:53 on the dot. The performance left spectators shocked and helped skyrocket the fame and reputation of Secretariat.Which track is longer the Derby or the Preakness? ›
For comparison's sake, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is 1 1/4 miles long, while the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., is 1 3/16 miles.Will Road to the Horse 2023 be televised? ›
Road to the Horse 2023 will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park on March 23-26, 2023. Viewers will be able to watch the event via the livestream on PlutoTV. Follow the event schedule and tune in to watch the action.What time is the Belmont Stakes in 2023? ›
The 2023 Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 10 at Belmont Park, with post time scheduled for approximately 6:50 p.m. ET.How many horses have won the Triple Crown? ›
Only 13 thoroughbreds have won the coveted Triple Crown of horse racing in the 100 years since Sir Barton became the first to win all three big races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes — in the same year. American Pharoah's sweep in 2015 ended a 25-year Triple Crown lull.How can I watch Preakness without cable? ›
Cord cutters have plenty of options to catch all of the horse racing action from Baltimore. There's Peacock, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports App and Fubo, which comes with a free trial for new subscribers. Preakness is typically held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.Is the Preakness on NBC? ›
NBC Sports is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, the Breeders' Cup World Championships, Royal Ascot, and Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series.
What horse won the Preakness today? ›
National Treasure wins the Preakness in a Triple Crown clouded by horse deaths. National Treasure, with jockey John Velazquez, front right, edges out Blazing Sevens, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., second from left, to win the148th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, on Saturday in Baltimore.What is the horse racing schedule for 2023? ›
- May 3rd – 4th, 2023. The Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY.
- May 20th, 2023. Preakness Stakes. Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, MD.
- June 10th, 2023. Belmont Stakes. Belmont Park, Elmont, NY.
- November 3rd – 4th, 2023. Breeders Cup. Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.
7 horses to vie for $1.65M purse at 148th Preakness in Baltimore.How much does it cost to run a horse in the Preakness? ›
After the running of the Kentucky Derby, the supplemental fee to nominate to the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes is $150,000; and after the Preakness the supplemental fee to nominate to the Belmont Stakes is $50,000.What happened at Preakness 2023? ›
On a day marred by a death in Bob Baffert's barn, his colt, National Treasure, edged out Blazing Sevens by a head to win the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday and give his trainer a record eighth victory in the race.Who won the Preakness today 2023? ›
Preakness Stakes live results, highlights from 2023 race. 7:08 p.m. — NATIONAL TREASURE WINS! He just barely held off a charging Blazing Sevens as the pair separated from Mage in the stretch run. There will be no Triple Crown winner this year, and what a win this was for National Treature.What did national treasure pay in the Preakness? ›
That's what champions do.” National Treasure paid $7.80 to win, $4 to place and $2.60 to show.Which jockey has won the most Belmont? ›
Most wins by a jockey:
6 – Eddie Arcaro (1941, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1952, 1955)
However, the duo easily took first place, winning by 51/2 lengths. American Pharoah became the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978, and Espinoza, who was 43, was the oldest jockey to capture the Triple Crown.Who was the last race horse to win the Triple Crown? ›
13 horses have won the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018).
Was Secretariat buried in a coffin? ›
Secretariat was buried in a 6 by 6-foot oak casket lined with orange silk, the color used by Claiborne's racing stables. He was buried near his sire, Bold Ruler, in a small graveyard behind the office at the farm.Who is the fastest horse in history? ›
- Secretariat. Fastest speed recorded: 37.7 miles per hour. Breed: Thoroughbred. ...
- Man O' War. Breed: Thoroughbred. ...
- Winning Brew. Fastest speed recorded: 43.97 miles per hour. ...
- Citation. Breed: Thoroughbred. ...
- Seabiscuit. Breed: Thoroughbred.
Secretariat's record off the track was not as successful as it had been on it. Put out to stud in late 1973, he sired nearly 600 foals, including one horse that sold for more than $1 million at auction—but nearly all of his male offspring failed miserably at the racetrack.What horse is buried at Saratoga? ›
Ever wondered why we have the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga? Well, the race is named for the horse that upset Gallant Fox in 1930 and earned Saratoga its nickname as the "Graveyard of Champions." The second Triple Crown winner in history, Gallant Fox was expected to easily take the Travers Stakes in 1930.Are race horses buried whole? ›
Horses on average weigh 1000 pounds, which means, when a horse dies, it takes a significant amount of effort for a full burial. Because of this, the tradition to bury only the head, heart, and hooves of a racehorse, began. Only for the highest symbol of honor is a racehorse buried whole. Why the head, heart and hooves?How old was Secretariat when he died? ›
Secretariat died in 1989 at the age of 19. He died of laminitis, an incurable condition that affects the tissue binding a horse's bone to the inner wall of the hoof. Secretariat is buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.What horse broke its leg in the Belmont? ›
Many theories arose as to the cause of the accident, though none have been confirmed. Barbaro broke his right hind leg in more than 20 places: a broken cannon bone above the pastern, a broken sesamoid bone behind the fetlock and a broken long pastern bone below the fetlock.What is the oldest horse called? ›
The greatest age reliably recorded for a horse is 62 years for Old Billy (foaled 1760), bred by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Lancashire, UK.What horse was euthanized on the track? ›
BALTIMORE (WBFF) — The 148th Preakness Stakes is in the books and it was an emotional day for trainer Bob Baffert. National Treasure, one of his horses, won the whole race; however, earlier that afternoon, another of his horses "Havin A Meltdown" had to be euthanized on the track.Was Secretariat faster than American Pharoah? ›
Triple Crown winner Secretariat may have taken the 1973 Belmont by a record 31 lengths and in a record time of 2:24, but American Pharoah was faster to the finish over the final 440 yards.
Who is the best racehorse of all time? ›
1.Man o' War. Foaled in 1917 at Nursery Stud, in Kentucky, and bred by financier August Belmont Jr., Man o' War has received wide acclaim as the best racehorse of all time.Why was Secretariat so fast? ›
Secretariat was so fast because he had outstanding conformation, an unusually large heart, and exceptional stride length.Who was faster than Secretariat? ›
American Pharoah's speeds at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were average compared to other Triple Crown winners, but he was the second fastest horse to finish the Belmont and win the Crown – trailing only behind Secretariat.Why is there only 7 horses in the Preakness? ›
Preakness Stakes contender First Mission was scratched Friday due to a left-hind issue, leaving just seven horses set to race on Saturday.Who was fastest horse before Secretariat? ›
Sham (April 9, 1970 – April 3, 1993) was an American thoroughbred race horse and leading three year-old in 1973, who was overshadowed by his more famous peer, Secretariat. Sham was dark bay, almost black in color.What is the longest distance horse race? ›
The Mongol Derby is an equestrian endurance race. The race extends 1,000 km (621 mi) through the Mongolian Steppe and is known as the world's longest horse race.What is the longest horse racing track in United States? ›
Out of all the racecourses found in the American territory, Belmont Park has the longest-running distance. It has been operating since May 4, 1905, by the New York Racing Association.What is the longest horse race in the Triple Crown? ›
The Belmont Stakes is currently contested at 1 ½ miles, or 12 furlongs, making it the longest of the Triple Crown races and typically the longest race that Thoroughbreds who compete in the series will ever run.Which horse won Preakness 2023? ›
Preakness Stakes live results, highlights from 2023 race. 7:08 p.m. — NATIONAL TREASURE WINS! He just barely held off a charging Blazing Sevens as the pair separated from Mage in the stretch run. There will be no Triple Crown winner this year, and what a win this was for National Treature.Who won the Preakness 2023 horse racing? ›
National Treasure wins 2023 Preakness Stakes, Mage finishes third. National Treasure edged Blazing Sevens in a photo finish to win the 148th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.
How can I watch horse racing without cable? ›
- Amazon Prime.
- FITE TV.
Coverage starts at 1 p.m. and goes to 4:30 p.m. ET on CNBC. Being the weekend, maybe there won't be the annoying stock crawl at the bottom. The big NBC picks it up at 4:30 p.m. and goes to 7:30 p.m. You can figure the conversion.What time is the Belmont Stakes 2023? ›
This year the Belmont Stakes will take its traditional place as the final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday, June 10, 2023 -- when the race is televised live on FOX, beginning at 4PM ET, post time approx. 6:50PM ET (5:50PM CT, 4:50PM MT and 3:50PM PT).Who was Secretariat's biggest rival? ›
The Wood Memorial, contested April 21 as the final New York prep to the Kentucky Derby, established Sham as a formidable rival to Secretariat. Although Secretariat's stable mate Angle Light set the pace and won, Sham lost by just a head and outfinished Secretariat by 4 lengths.What horse does Bob Baffert have in the Preakness? ›
A horse named National Treasure won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The win handed trainer Bob Baffert a record-setting victory, hours after he had to put down an injured horse, and coming upon his return to the race after being banned last year.Who won the Triple Crown 2023? ›
The Baffert-trained National Treasure dawdled on the front end and withstood a late charge from Blazing Sevens to win Saturday's $1.65 million, Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course by a head and thrust Baffert back into the Triple Crown spotlight after a two-year absence.Who owns the horse national treasure? ›
|Breeder||Peter E. Blum|
|Owner||SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables , Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital & Catherine Donovan|
It was already a small field for the Preakness, and then First Mission was scratched. As it stands, seven horses will run the race at Pimlico, including only one horse that ran the Derby.Did Mage run in the preakness 2023? ›
Mage entered the 2023 Preakness Stakes with hopes for the Triple Crown and exited it with a surprise loss.Who won Preakness in order? ›
|Year||Horse||Jockey / Trainer|
|2019||War of Will||Tyler Gaffalione / Mark E. Casse|
|2018||Justify||Mike Smith / Bob Baffert|
|2017||Cloud Computing||Javier Castellano / Chad Brown|
|2016||Exaggerator||Kent Desormeaux / J. Keith Desormeaux|