How the National Treasure Wins 2023 Preakness Stakes

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National Treasure crossed the finish line first at the 148th Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 20, 2023, beating out six other horses to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown. The win marks trainer Bob Baffert's record-setting eighth Preakness victory. At age 70, Baffert continues to dominate American horse racing's biggest events.

Jockey John Velazquez rode National Treasure perfectly, keeping the horse near the lead for most of the race before making his move in the final turn. National Treasure pulled ahead down the stretch to finish 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Blazing Sevens in second place. Kentucky Derby winner Mage, who went into the Preakness as the favorite, faded late to finish third.

National Treasure Delivers Emotional Win for Baffert

The win comes as vindication for Baffert after being banned from Churchill Downs and missing last year's Preakness. An medication overage for the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit led to sanctions against Baffert. Saturday's Preakness win ties him with 19th century trainer R. Wyndham Walden for the most ever.

Adding to the emotion, Baffert's horse Havnameltdown had to be euthanized earlier on Preakness day after suffering a fractured leg. A dejected Baffert praised his team and dedicated the win to Havnameltdown in his post-race interview.

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At 3-1 odds, National Treasure was not the most favored horse entering the race but his pedigree suggested he could handle the 1 3/16 mile distance. His sire Curlin won the Preakness in 2007. Jockey Velazquez executed a patient race, keeping his horse behind a fast early pace set by Mage.

In the final turn, National Treasure asserted himself, pulling even with Mage as they entered the top of the stretch. National Treasure found another gear in deep stretch, separating himself from the pack for a decisive win.

Blazing Sevens set the early pace but could not sustain it, fading to second. Mage wilted late after attempting to wire the field and hold on. The favorite's third place finish likely ends any hopes for a Triple Crown winner this year.

National Treasure is owned by Mike Smithson, who said that Baffert had the colt finely tuned for his best effort. At 3 years old, National Treasure seems to just be hitting his stride as a racehorse. He'll likely target the Belmont Stakes in June to try for two jewels of the Triple Crown.

Baffert emphasized the heartbreak and responsibility that comes with his job after the tragedy earlier in the day. "There’s so many responsibilities a trainer has,” he remarked. “To win this, losing that horse today really hurt."

This Preakness win helps put Baffert back on top of the sport after a tumultuous couple years dealing with medication violations and legal battles. He had been barred from Churchill Downs and missed last year's Preakness with Medina Spirit.

At his age, Baffert shows no signs of slowing down and no trainer has been more successful in the 21st century. He's won the Kentucky Derby six times and captured seven Preakness Stakes. After eight wins at Pimilico, the Preakness clearly remains Baffert's race to lose.

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