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First Mission withdraws from 2023 Preakness Stakes, field drops to lowest in decades

First Mission, the second choice entering Friday to win the Preakness Stakes this weekend, was scratched from Saturday’s race following an injury.

According to David Grening, First Mission is dropping out of Preakness due to a left hind leg injury. It means the eight-team field, the lowest since 2018, will now drop to seven.

Related: Everything you need to know about Preakness States 2023

Throughout the history of the Preakness Stakes, typically between 12-14 horses participate in the rase. However, the number of participants this year is down dramatically.

Following the withdrawal of First Mission, the 2023 Preakness Stakes field is now down to seven horses. It’s the smallest field in decades, surpassing the eight-horse races in 2018, 2015 and 2000.

Related: 2023 Preakness Stakes horses, odds, and prediction

Even more alarming, per Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, this will be the first time in 75 years that the Preakness Stakes only has one Derby starter competing in it. Mage, the Kentucky Derby winner, is the only horse who ran at Churchill Downs to now take the track at the Pimlico Race Course.

Heading into the weekend, First Mission had 5-1 odds to win. it won at Lexington G3 in April and was becoming an increasingly-popular pick among those expecting Mage to lose.

The latest withdrawal and the historically-concerning trends have heightened calls for changes to the Triple Crown schedule. Typically, the Preakness Stakes is run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby with the Belmont Stakes then held three weeks after Preakness.

Death in horse racing has become a greater focus this year, with seven horses dying during the week before the Kentucky Derby. An eighth horse died at Churchill Downs earlier this week.

With television ratings for horse racing sinking and more scrutiny over the treatment of the horses, changes could be on the horizon. While there has been some resistance to adjusting the schedule in recent years, the growing public criticism could eventually force adjustments in the coming months for 2024.

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