I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby (G1) just two weeks ago, headline an 11-horse field in today’s Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
The last time they met, Bodemeister set one of the fastest paces in Kentucky Derby history and I’ll Have Another made history of his own becoming the first horse to win the Derby from post position No. 19.
Despite wearing the crown of Derby winner, I’ll Have Another is likely to be sent off as the second wagering choice behind Bodemeister when the horses load into the gate for today’s 137th running of the Triple Crown’s second leg.
I’ll Have Another, owned by Reddam Racing and trained by Doug O’Neill, was purchased for $35,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company last year as a 2-year-old. He was sold by Eisaman Equine and selected by Doug’s brother Dennis O’Neill.
When asked if he believed he was purchasing a future Kentucky Derby winner, Dennis replied: “Absolutely not. For the horses I buy, I hope they can win for maiden $40,000 or $50,000,” he said. “The first time he breezed, I asked Doug if he thought he could win a maiden 40 or 50 and he said he was more like Stevie Wonderboy (the 2005 juvenile champion trained by O’Neill).”
Doug O’Neill was high on the colt early on.
“We always thought highly of him and he has that long stride,” the trainer said, noting that Kentucky Derby dreams began to really grow after I’ll Have Another’s victory in the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis (G2). “To win going two turns after a five-month layoff, I thought that maybe he may be one for the classics.”
Young jockey Mario Gutierrez, known as “Super Mario,” is undefeated in three starts on I’ll Have Another and those three victories have accounted for $2,093,600, a total that exceeds Gutierrez’s previous best year in 2007 when his 624 mounts accounted for $2,060,769 in earnings.
Bodemeister, owned by Zayat Stables and Michel and Tiffany Moreno, is certain to utilize his early speed in the 1 3/16-mile test.
“The horse looks good. He’s trained well,” trainer Bob Baffert said on Friday. “It’s just waiting now.”
Bodemeister set a scorching pace in the Kentucky Derby and managed to hold on to finish second to I’ll Have Another. Will Bodemeister try to run the competition into the ground in a race that is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby?
“On paper, it looks like he’s going to be the speed,” Baffert said. “He has to break well. He has a high cruising speed and hopefully he doesn’t go as fast as he did in the Derby.”
Jockey Mike Smith and Bodemeister covered the first quarter in :22.32 and the half-mile in :45.39. Smith is back aboard for the Preakness, but he doesn’t have to deal with speedsters such as Hansen and Trinniberg in the Preakness.
“I think he learned a lot from the horse the last time,” Baffert said. “He’s a horse that if you push the button he’s going to be gone. The pace is the whole key here. I’ve been at the Preakness and there is always some longshot that decides they want to go. I can’t worry about that. If Bodemeister just runs his race then he’ll be effective. That’s the whole key.”
With his remarkable speed, Bodemeister has been first or second in each of his five career starts.
“Bode,’ I can’t change his style too much,” Baffert said. “He’s a lightly raced horse. Hopefully, he doesn’t go too fast. If they go with him, it’s actually good, because if they chase him it’s a good thing. We’ll see what happens.”
Baffert has won the Preakness five times from 12 starters since making his debut with Cavonnier (4th) in 1996. His quintet is composed of Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), as well as Point Given in 2001 and Lookin at Lucky in 2010.
“My secret is that those horses were very, very good horses,” he said. “They were the best horses and that’s why they won. Three of them won the Kentucky Derby and two of them didn’t run well in the Derby, but they bounced back really well.
“The cream always rises to the top. The Kentucky Derby winner is a very good horse and he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Trainer Mike Harrington, 71, is pleased with the way his charge, Heinz Steinmann’s Creative Cause has held up through his 3-year-old season.
“He’s getting more mature with every race he runs,” Harrington said. “He’s doing well. He’s holding up good. I was talking to somebody this morning and I said it will be interesting to see how many of these are still standing after the Belmont.”
That Harrington returned East for the Preakness after taking the fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher back to California was a surprise to some, but he said the decision wasn’t all that difficult.
“I don’t know where people get these ideas that you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that,” he said. “I mean, Doug (O’Neill) brought his horse here right after the Derby and that hadn’t been done before. Who sets the rules what you’ve got to do?”
As for the race itself, Harrington said most people have a set script in mind and rarely does a big race play out that way on the track.
“Everybody has the same scenario,” he said. “Bodemeister’s going to the front; I’ll Have Another is going to be following him. Hopefully, I won’t be more than five lengths off them. But in reality, the race probably isn’t going to come out the way everybody thinks it’s going to. I don’t know what’s going to change it; I just feel it may not come out that way.”
Went the Day Well appears to have bounced out of the Kentucky Derby to the satisfaction of his connections—owners Team Valor International and Mark Ford and trainer Graham Motion.
Exercise rider Zeke Castro has noticed a sharp increase in focus from the son of Proud Citizen since his victory in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park, which was followed by an unlucky, fast-closing fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“After the Turfway race, he’s figured out he can do more and more,” the native of Argentina said. “The improved focus can be attributed to the addition of blinkers following an impressive, but green performance in the Spiral. It became clear that Went the Day Will would benefit from the new equipment. I breezed him one day at Keeneland, and, oh, my God, I thought I was going to get fired. I knew I had a lot of horse, but he didn’t want to go when I asked him. He just wanted to play with his company. He didn’t mind if he was going slower or faster, he just didn’t want to go by his company,” Castro said.
Jockey Julien Leparoux gets reunited with Daddy Nose Best for the Preakness. Leparoux piloted Union Rags in the Derby, but had been aboard Daddy Nose Best for two stakes victories this season and eight of 11 starts overall.
“I’m excited that Julien is back on him because of how familiar he is with him,”said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “I’m glad to have him back on.”
Trainer Dale Romans, who won last year’s Preakness with Shackleford, will saddle Cozzetti today.
“He looked super training today,” Romans said after watching the gray colt jog a mile and gallop a mile under exercise rider Mary Doser on Friday. “It’s an uphill battle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran big. It looks like he should be strictly a grass horse, but he’s sure running well on the dirt – better than on the grass,” said Romans, who finished second in the 2010 Preakness with First Dude. “He’s coming around at the right time. I don’t know if he’s good enough to win, but he’s going to run a big race. They (the top contenders) better not stub their toes.”
Tiger Walk will carry the local Maryland hopes of Sagamore Farm’s Kevin Plank, who made his fortune in the Under Armor Corporation. Tiger Walk, a son of Tale of the Cat, is trained by Ignacio Correas, who is sending out his first Preakness starter.
Tiger Walk hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in an eight-horse field in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct Race Track April 7.
I’ll Have Another/Reed Palmer photo