Preakness 2023:First Mission scratched by vet 36 hours before Triple Crown race

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Brad Cox-trained First Mission has been scratched from the Preakness on the advice of veterinarians, taking one of the top contenders out of the Triple Crown race 36 hours before post time.

Godolphin, which owns the horse, announced the scratch early Friday, saying vets identified a left hind issue.

“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 bloodstock director Michael Banahan said.

Godolphin said First Mission will receive further evaluation in Kentucky at Rood and Riddle hospital with Dr. Larry Bramlage.

The removal of First Mission leaves seven horses in the field for the $1.65 million race. He was the early second choice at odds of 5-2 behind only 8-5 favorite Mage, who won the Kentucky Derby.

Five horses were scratched in the days and hours leading up to the Derby, including favorite Forte, when Kentucky racing officials expressed concern about a bruised right front foot. Forte landed on the state’s vet list, grounding him from racing for at least 14 days and trainer Todd Pletcher was suspended 10 days for Forte failing a postrace drug test in New York in September.

Racing officials who own and operate tracks in Maryland have increased testing and veterinary review procedures for horses running in the Preakness and other top stakes races this weekend at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore as preventative measures to limit injuries. That includes multiple independent doctors examining horses, with each one needing to be cleared before racing.

Seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the days leading up and on Derby day, and an eighth died the following week, putting the sport in a familiar negative spotlight when a cluster of fatalities happens, especially during Triple Crown season.

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