The Preakness day card took a tragic turn during the Chick Lang Stakes on Saturday when Havnameltdown, trained by Bob Baffert, broke down and was euthanized on the track. Jockey Luis Saez was hurled to the ground and taken to a nearby Sinai hospital.
Havnameltdown was rounding the far turn when he appeared to take a bad step, throwing Saez to the ground. He suffered a broken left front fetlock injury that was non-operable, according to Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer for 1/ST Racing, which runs Pimlico Race Course. It appeared the injury to the horse was to the left front leg. In a gruesome scene, Havnameltdown kept running with his lower leg clearly damaged. An outrider corralled him midway in the stretch.
Benson and other veterinarians quickly made the decision to euthanize the horse on the track. A screen was placed around the horse to keep the public from seeing the final moments.
Saez, who was sitting up at one point, was put on a stretcher and taken away by ambulance. He originally was complaining of leg pain but his agent Kiaran McLaughlin told the Daily Racing Form that his x-rays came back clean and that he wants to ride on Sunday.
“We never had an issue with him,” Baffert said. “We are so careful with these horses and it still happens. It is something that is disheartening. I feel so bad for that horse and I just hope Luis [Saez] is OK.
“We do grieve when these things happen. There is nothing worse than coming back and the stall is empty.… He could not have been doing any better. It’s sickening. I am in shock.”
This comes soon after seven horses died at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby including two on the Derby undercard. Since then two more have died, including one on Saturday, bringing the total to nine.
The sport has been under fire for many years for the number of fatalities. But when it happens around high-profile events, such as Triple Crown races, it brings the sport the kind of attention it doesn’t want.
The racing continued at Pimlico Race Course leading up to the Preakness.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.