By Duane Fonseca
US Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert marked his return to action from suspension with a record 17th Triple Crown success after National Treasure made all in the 148th running of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse.
Baffert, 70, received numerous sanctions after Medina Spirit won the 2021 Kentucky Derby and later tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone, a anti-inflammatory medication. He was even banned from running a horse in last year’s Preakness.
But on Saturday, after dealing with the death of Havnameltdown on the undercard, Baffert collected an eighth Preakness success as National Treasure and rider John Velazquez broke smartly and held on to win by a head after setting a pretty pedestrian pace. The pair were challenged by Chad C Brown’s Blazing Sevens carrying Irad Ortiz Jr. in the straight and managed to thwart their rivals by finding a little bit extra in the 1900m contest. Gustavo Delgado’s Kentucky Derby winner Mage, the favourite, finished two and a quarter back in third under Javier Castellano.
Baffert said: “This business is twists and turns, ups and downs. To win this — losing that horse today really hurt. ... It’s been a very emotional day.”
Velazquez, winning the race for the first time on his 13th try, added: “He fought the whole way. He put up a really good fight. ... That’s what champions do.”