Preakness favorite Muth ruled out of Triple Crown race after spiking a fever

Preakness favorite Muth has been ruled out of the second leg of the Triple Crown after spiking a fever, taking arguably the best horse and one trained by Bob Baffert out of the race.

The Maryland Jockey Club announced Muth’s status change Wednesday morning, roughly 12 hours after the horse arrived at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Baffert said Muth’s temperature reached 103 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and the camp had no choice but to scratch him.

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“We are sick about this. The horse had been doing really well,” Baffert said. “But we have to do what’s right by the horse.”

Muth was set to be one of two horses running in the Preakness on Saturday for Baffert, a Hall of Famer and two-time winner of the Triple Crown who is still expected to saddle Imagination as part of what’s now a field of eight. Baffert was not expected to fly in until Thursday, though assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes accompanied the horses on their flight to Newark, New Jersey, and the drive down to Maryland.

At the post-position draw Monday, Muth opened as the 8-5 favorite with Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan second at 5-2 and Imagination and Brad Cox-trained Catching Freedom tied for third at 6-1.

“It takes a lot out of the equation,” said Ray Bryner, the assistant trainer for Mystik Dan. “We don’t have to worry about him, so there’s eight horses now and we can kind of run our race and not worry about chasing the horse they call the favorite.”

Muth had beaten a field that included Mystik Dan, who finished third, in the Arkansas Derby on March 30.

“I was confident we were going to get revenge,” Bryner said.

That was Muth’s last race because of Baffert’s ban at Churchill Downs prohibiting him from entering anyone in the Kentucky Derby, a race won by Mystik Dan in the closest finish since 1947. Mystik Dan now figures to become the Preakness favorite.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of disappointed people on that end of it,” Bryner said. “I’m not disappointed, I have to be honest. With him out of the race, it makes us pretty strong. Especially if we get the off (muddy) track like he’s shown he can already handle, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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