National Treasure is in the Winners Circle at the #PreaknessStakes @wbaltv11 pic.twitter.com/QW5U6ZU3Nk

— Jacob Sexton (@_JacobSexton) May 20, 2023

In an exhilarating turn of events, National Treasure, trained by Bob Baffert, emerged as the unexpected champion, thwarting Mage’s bid for the coveted Triple Crown title in the 2023 Preakness.

Despite being the 5-2 second choice, National Treasure showcased remarkable resilience, fending off a fierce challenge from Blazing Sevens in the final stretch of the $1.65 million, 1 3/16-mile race, winning by a mere head. Mage, the heavily favored 7-5 contender, settled for third place.

Jockey John Velazquez celebrated his maiden Preakness triumph after 12 attempts, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious career. Baffert, who faced a ban following the disqualification of his Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, due to a failed drug test in 2021, rejoiced in his first Preakness victory in two years.

Expressing his joy, Baffert shared his sentiments with NBC Sports, stating, “I love Baltimore, it’s good to be back.”

The Preakness unfolded with the absence of First Mission, a notable contender, as veterinarians expressed concerns about his left-handedness ankle, leading to his withdrawal from the race.

Velazquez, reflecting on his long-awaited triumph, expressed his satisfaction, saying, “The success I’ve had in other races, not having won this one, was definitely a missing piece. So, it’s special to have it now.”

However, amidst the celebrations, tragedy struck Baffert’s camp as colt Havnameltdown suffered a fatal left leg injury during the Chick Lang Stakes. Baffert expressed his devastation, emphasizing the meticulous care given to the horses and the unfortunate occurrence despite their precautions. Jockey Luis Saez, who rode Havnameltdown, was thankfully conscious and receiving treatment at Sinai Hospital.

The veterinary team determined that Havnameltdown’s left front leg injury was inoperable, leaving Baffert and his team in shock and sorrow.

Overwhelmed by a mix of emotions, Baffert tearfully stated, “Winning this race, but losing that horse earlier, really hurts. It’s been a very emotional day.”

The unexpected triumph of National Treasure and the unfortunate loss of Havnameltdown have created a buzz in the racing world, captivating the attention of fans and igniting discussions about the unpredictable nature of the sport.