BALTIMORE (AP) — Preakness day has arrived with horse racing in the spotlight and Kentucky Derby winner Mage having a shot at being the first Triple Crown champion in five years.
It’s not the spotlight the sport would like, though, after seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the leadup to the Derby. Two parallel investigations are ongoing into those deaths and a recent eighth death at the Louisville track to determine the causes.
But with new national medication and doping rules set to go into effect next week, the industry is at something of a crossroads. The federally mandated Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which already regulated racetrack safety and other measures, starting Monday will oversee drug testing requirements for horses that should standardize the sport nationwide.
Before that, Mage has a chance in the Preakness to provide some on-track excitement. If he finishes first in the field of seven horses, the smallest in the race since 1986, he can go to Belmont on June 10 with the opportunity to be the first Triple Crown winner since Justify in 2018.
Doing so later Saturday would mean beating a horse trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert, who’s back at the Preakness for the first time in two years after returning from suspension. Baffert’s National Treasure is the second betting choice behind Mage.
First Mission was Mage’s other top challenger before being scratched Friday on the advice of veterinarians who had a concern about the horse’s left hind ankle. The withdrawal comes after five horses were scratched from the Derby for various reasons, including favorite Forte.
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