On the day of the 148th Preakness Stakes, jockey Luis Saez fell off the horse he was riding and had to be taken to a Baltimore-area hospital during undercard race at Pimlico Race Course. The horse, Havnameltdown, suffered an injury on his left front ankle and was euthanized on the track.
Havnameltdown was off to a slow start in the sixth race on the card when he struggled to get out of the gate cleanly for the Chick Lang Stakes. He pushed his way toward the front and was competing for the lead when, in the middle of the turn, Saez was flung off the horse and hit the ground hard, rolling several times on the dirt. Havnameltdown briefly kept going without the jockey before pulling up.
Havnameltdown, trained by Bob Baffert, closed as the favorite to win the race with 4/5 odds. He was second in the Saudi Derby in his last start before Pimlico. The Chick Lang Stakes, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds with a total purse of $200,000, was won by Ryvit.
Saez was visibly conscious on the track and according to the NBC Sports broadcast he was complaining of leg pain as he was stretchered to an ambulance and taken to the hospital. A later update on the broadcast said Saez was alert and talking at the hospital in stable condition. His X-rays were clean and his agent told NBC Sports that Saez is feeling good and wants to get back on the saddle as soon as tomorrow.
“[Havnameltdown’s injury] was to such an extent that they couldn’t to anything for him. He had to be humanely euthanized,” said Dr. Scott Hay, the AAEP on-call veterinarian, during the NBC broadcast.
Multiple veterinarians are on site to get to the horses as soon as possible in case of an injury or incident on the track. Havnameltdown was not taken to the barn for further examination and treatment.
“The extend of the injury was severe enough that it was probably in the horses best interest to just euthanize at that point rather than try to go through the process of loading him on an ambulance,” Hay explained.
The veterinarian said that from what he had seen so far, he thought the track seemed safe enough to continue racing today.
Saez, a 31-year-old Panama native, finished first while riding Maximum Security at the 2019 Kentucky Derby. However, that horse was eventually disqualified for interference and Country House was awarded the win instead. The incident comes two weeks after the Kentucky Derby where eight horses died at Churchill Downs in the lead up to the Run for the Roses.