Equine Safety Continues To Dominate Conversations As Preakness Approaches

Written By Derek Helling on May 19, 2023
the safety of thoroughbred racing horses has been in the news a lot

The 2023 Preakness Stakes is about a day away but the dominant conversation has little to do with the outlook for the race. Even the chances of Mage staying alive for horse racing’s Triple Crown by adding a Preakness win to his Kentucky Derby laurel is taking a back seat to the safety of horses in the sport.

The site of the Preakness and venue for the Kentucky Derby haven’t been immune to a recent rash of well-publicized horse deaths. Concerns for the safety of the equine athletes have had an immediate impact on the Preakness but there could be greater ramifications for the larger sport in the future.

Betting contender First Mission exits Preakness Stakes

According to Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press, trainer Brad Cox pulled horse First Mission out of the Preakness. The horse’s veterinary team expressed that the left hind ankle is not where they want it to be. Thus, out of an abundance of caution, First Mission will not run Saturday.

Prior to the exit, First Mission had been the betting second choice at 5-2. With that scratch, National Treasure takes that s
pot at 4-1. Kentucky Derby winner Mage stands pat at 8-5 and would increase the excitement around the Belmont Stakes if he proves worthy of his favorite status.

The horse racing industry could use a serious Triple Crown threat right now. A lot of the publicity around the sport involves the number of horses put down recently because of racing injuries.

Horse fatalities become racing’s low light in recent weeks

On Sunday, there was another horse death after a race at Churchill Downs, according to the Associated Press. That makes eight such deaths over the past weeks just at that track alone. Churchill Downs has not been alone in this regard, either.

The state in which Saturday’s Preakness Stakes will take place has seen similar tragedies recently. Last month, Maryland regulators shut down racing at Laurel Park after five horses died after racing on the track within a two-week span.

The high profile of these tracks along with the proximity of the deaths of the horses have contributed to a cloud of negativity hanging over the sport. The cloud even overshadows that according to the Jockey Club, the rate of horse fatalities in racing has never been lower (1.25 deaths per 1,000 starts).

Despite the cloud of negativity, the amount of money wagered on the 149th Kentucky Derby broke records. Whether that will be the case for the 2023 Preakness remains to be seen, although betting opportunities will be plentiful.

First Mission’s scratch may not be a deterrent. Several horses pulled out of the Kentucky Derby in the waning days leading up to the race and bettors were unfazed. If the Preakness does not go off without a hitch as far as injuries to horses go, though, existing betting records on horse races may stand forever. The health of the sport depends on the health of horses.

Photo by Playin USA
Derek Helling Avatar
Written by

Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of Playin USA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

View all posts by Derek Helling