One of the top contenders in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, First Mission, was scratched Friday morning, leaving Maryland’s prestigious Triple Crown race with a field of just seven horses.
The horse’s ownership company Godolphin said that the track veterinarian at Pimlico ruled out the 3-year-old due to a “minor” left hind leg issue that could not be resolved. The horse was listed with 5-2 odds on the morning line, second only to Kentucky Derby winner Mage.
First Mission will be sent down to Rood & Riddle equine hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, for further evaluation, Godolphin said. Trainer Brad Cox declined comment.
Godolphin official Michael Banahan said in a statement: “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.”
The scratch comes as thoroughbred horse racing deals with a cloud from its signature event: Seven horses died in the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby earlier this month. Trainers, owners and other race officials have acknowledged increased anxiety in preparation for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
The 148th running of the Preakness has a smaller-than-normal field with just eight horses entering the week. Saturday’s race will be first seven-horse field since 1986. Mage is the only returning horse from the Kentucky Derby, and is an 8-5 favorite on the morning line.
Other trainers at Pimlico were sympathetic to First Mission’s hang-up. The horse had offered some hope for Cox to achieve a personal Triple Crown coming into the week.
“You don’t want to see another comparative horse scratched, because we’re all in the same boat,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “You don’t wish any bad luck on anybody.”