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Bodexpress throws jockey at Preakness starting gate, then luckily stays out of the way

Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Horse Racing

BALTIMORE -- After arriving at Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday's 144th Preakness, trainer Gustavo Delgado chalked up a 13th-place finish for Bodexpress in the Kentucky Derby to bad luck.

"The race was very, very crazy," Delgado said about what transpired at Churchill Downs, when apparent winner Maximum Security became the first horse in Derby history to be disqualified, in this case for impeding several other horses.

Things got crazier for Bodexpress in Baltimore.

Starting in the No. 9 pole position, Bodexpress appeared to buck just as the gate was about to open, throwing Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the process. The 20-1 shot ran the entire race -- and more -- before eventually being corralled by an outrider.

"He wasn't behaving well in the gate," said Velazquez, who was riding Bodexpress for the first time. "He got me against the wall. Obviously when the doors opened ... I lost my balance and went off. I'm disappointed."

The sight of a riderless horse in any race is unnerving, but that it happened in the middle leg of this year's Triple Crown series made it especially unusual. Bob Baffert, who trained Bodexpress' sire, Bodemeister, said it was "rare" to see in a classic race.

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Baffert, who was looking to break the record of seven Preakness victories since tying R. Wyndham Walden with Justify's win a year ago, said his horse -- morning-line favorite Improbable -- might have unnerved Bodexpress in the starting gate.

"Everything was good and my horse acted up," Baffert said. "My horse caused all the problems."

Baffert didn't think Bodexpress impacted his horse, which finished a disappointing sixth, or any others in contention. In accordance with racing rules, Bodexpress was automatically disqualified after throwing his rider.

"The only thing that would have been affected was he was going to be on the pack. ... Maybe it would have been a faster pace," Baffert said. "Luckily he stayed out of the way. He affected probably the horses that were behind him. The first flight weren't affected.

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