Health and safety concerns cause scratch of top contender for Saturday’s Preakness

Considered the top challenger to Kentucky Derby winner Mage, First Mission was scratched from the Preakness after consultation with the Pimlico veterinary team on Friday morning.

According to a press release from Godolphin, the winner of the Lexington Stakes was scratched because of a problem with his left hind foot. First Mission was the second-favorite in the Preakness morning line at 5-2.

It’s the second time in this year’s Triple Crown races that a top contender has been scratched because of a foot problem. Kentucky Derby morning line favorite Forte was scratched the morning of the race by the state veterinarian at Churchill Downs.

Horse racing health and safety protocols have been under closer scrutiny of late since eight equine fatalities in the first two weeks of racing at Churchill Downs.

With First Mission’s scratch, the Preakness field is down to seven colts, the fewest since 1986. Mage is the 8-5 morning line favorite.

According to the Godolphin release, First Mission will be shipped to Rood and Riddle Hospital in Lexington for additional evaluation.

“We are obviously very disappointed, but the welfare of the horse is our utmost concern, and we are going to take the necessary steps to determine the best course of action to get him back on the track,” Godolphin director of bloodstock Michael Banahan said in the press release.

Trained by Brad Cox, First Mission has won two of his three lifetime starts. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense finished second in his debut Feb. 18 at Fair Grounds before breaking his maiden March 18 at the track.

He then won the Lexington Stakes on April 15 at Keeneland by a half-length over Arabian Lion. Disarm finished third, then went on to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

Mage is the only colt who ran in the Kentucky Derby who is also running in the Preakness. That’s the first time that’s happened since the current spacing of the Triple Crown races — two weeks between Kentucky Derby and Preakness; three weeks between Preakness and Belmont Stakes — began in 1969.

Preakness Stakes

When: 7:01 p.m. Saturday

Where: Pimlico Race Course

TV: NBC and Peacock

Purse: $1.65 million (Grade 1)

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

For: 3-year-old Thoroughbreds

Preakness field

With trainers, jockeys and morning line odds:

1. National Treasure (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 4-1)

2. Chase the Chaos (Ed Moger, Jr., Sheldon Russell, 50-1)

3. Mage (Gustavo Delgado, Javier Castellano, 8-5 morning-line favorite)

4. Coffeewithchris (John E. Salzman, Jr., Jaime Rodriguez, 20-1)

5. Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Joel Roasrio, 10-1)

6. Perform (Shug McGaughey, Feargal Lynch, 15-1)

7. Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1)

8. First Mission (Brad Cox, Luis Saez, scratched)

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