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Major tracks to ban race-day use of anti-bleeding medication Lasix

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ARCADIA, Calif. — All three sites of the Triple Crown are among several major tracks that have agreed to phase out the use of a common anti-bleeding medication starting next year.

Starting in 2020, 2-year-old horses won’t be allowed to be treated with the drug Lasix within 24 hours of racing. Lasix is a diuretic given to a majority of horses on race days to prevent pulmonary bleeding.

In 2021, the same prohibition would extend to all horses running in any stakes race at tracks in the coalition that announced the ban Thursday. That’s the year the Triple Crown would be run for the first time under the new medication rules. Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont are the hosts for the Triple Crown races: Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

While many American trainers say Lasix is a vital medication that keeps horses safe, animal-rights activists say it amounts to a performance-enhancing drug and note most tracks in the world do fine without it. Outside North America, most racing countries ban race-day medication.

The Breeders’ Cup, which is thoroughbred racing’s world championships, is part of the coalition announced Thursday. This year’s event is set to be run at Santa Anita in November.

Other major tracks participating are Aqueduct and Saratoga in New York, California’s Del Mar and Los Alamitos, Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, Arlington International outside Chicago, Keeneland in Kentucky, Lone Star in Texas, Fair Grounds in Louisiana, Remington in Oklahoma and Oaklawn in Arkansas.

Other tracks involved are Laurel in Maryland and Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania.

Santa Anita in Southern California and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California will continue to run under recently announced limits to race-day medication that were prompted by the deaths of 23 horses since Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. Both California tracks are owned by The Stronach Group.

“It took 23 dead horses on one track, but we were sure that the racing industry could change if it wanted to and phasing out Lasix for stakes races and 2-year-olds is an excellent first step in what must be an ongoing overhaul of racing rules nationwide,” Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a statement.

The tracks will need to work with trainers and racing commissions in each jurisdiction to implement the plan.

“This is a huge moment that signals a collective move to evolve this legacy sport,” said Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, whose holdings include Santa Anita, Gulfstream and Pimlico. “While there is still more work to be done, these reforms are a good start.”

New York Racing Association president and CEO David O’Rourke called it “a progressive and unified approach” to race-day medication.

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said, “This is a significant and meaningful step to further harmonize American racing with international standards.”

PETA is urging a ban on Lasix for all races, in addition to banning all medications in the two weeks before a race, banning trainers with multiple medication violations, mandating complete public transparency of injury and medication records, ending the use of whips, and switching to high-quality synthetic tracks.

California previously experimented with synthetic surfaces at its major tracks, spending $40 million to install them before eventually returning to dirt.

War of Will wins the 2019 Preakness Stakes

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War of Will, jockeyed by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Mark Casse, won the 144th Preakness Stakes after a brief inquiry. This is the first Triple Crown win for both Casse and Gaffalione.

The win comes two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, where War of Will was one of the primary horses Maximum Security impeded during one of the most historic and controversial Kentucky Derby races on record. War of Will, known as “WOW” around the barn, finished 8th at Churchill and was elevated to 7th.

“I’m very happy for the horse, he deserved it more than anything. He’s so special,” said Gaffalione. “It really hasn’t even hit me yet. I can’t even put it into words. I just can’t thank my family enough for their support.”

Jockey John Velazquez was unseated off of Bodexpress out of the gate, and the riderless No. 9 horse continued to run with the pack. Stewards flagged the incident but quickly cleared it and listed him as “did not finish.” Outriders couldn’t attempt to catch him until later in the race because of how close he was running to other horses.

“I’m good,” said Velazquez. “To tell you the truth I’m just disappointed.”

After starting four back from pace-setter Warrior’s Charge, War of Will clung to the rail until sneaking through an opening down the homestretch to take over the lead. Longshot Everfast finished 1 1/4 lengths behind in second, and Owendale took third. Improbable, Bob Baffert‘s morning line favorite jockeyed by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, finished in fourth. Maryland-bred Alwaysmining ran 11th. See the full results here.

War of Will’s win comes just two weeks after one of the most controversial Kentucky Derby races in history. Maximum Security led wire-to-wire but was disqualified 22 minutes after crossing the finish line for impacting the forward progress of several horses, including War of Will and Bodexpress. Track stewards disqualified him, and every horse was moved up one position. Longshot Country House (65-1) finished second and was elevated to first.

For the first time since Grindstone in 1996, the Kentucky Derby winner didn’t run. Country House showed signs of a developing illness and stopped training. Maximum Security was rested after the Derby.

This was also the first time that none of the top-3 Kentucky Derby finishers have run in the second leg of the Triple Crown since 1951.

The Preakness Stakes, raced annually at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, is marked by its shorter distance and smaller field. Run just two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the fast turnaround time can be the biggest challenge for horses who just ran at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

NBC’s coverage of the Triple Crown concludes at Belmont Park for the 151st Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 8 on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

Last year, Baffert’s horse Justify won the 143rd Preakness with Smith en route to win the 2018 Triple Crown. Owned by WinStar Farm, he became the 13th horse to do so and Baffert’s second, just three years after American Pharoah in 2015.

Baffert’s Improbable remains favorite to win the Preakness

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BALTIMORE (AP) Bob Baffert-trained Improbable remains the favorite for the Preakness.

Improbable is 3-1 to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown after being installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. He was also the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, finished fifth and was placed fourth after Maximum Security was disqualified.

War of Will, who was initially the second choice in wagering at 4-1, was 6-1 as of late Saturday morning. Bourbon War, who didn’t run in the Derby, has been bet down from 12-1 to 9-2.

Last-minute addition Everfast, who opened 50-1, is no longer the longest shot on the board; he is now 22-1. The longest shot now is 26-1 Market King, who is trained by six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas.

Odds will continue to fluctuate until post time at 6:48 p.m.