I’ll Have Another ran down a tenacious Bodemeister in the 137th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive.
In an exciting rematch of the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another, owned by Reddam Racing, collared the Kentucky Derby and Preakness pacesetter approaching the wire to prevail by a neck in a thrilling second leg of the Triple Crown. Creative Cause tracked Bodemeister through the early stages and wound up third.
I’ll Have Another covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.90. The Doug O’Neill trainee heads to New York for the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 9 with a chance at becoming the first horse since Florida-bred Affirmed in 1978 to sweep the prestigious Triple Crown.
“I’m just numb,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “I could see him and I felt like he was coming, but you never want to expect that he’s going to be in front. I saw him coming. It seemed like the stretch never ends. Thank God. Usually you want it to end. Incredible.”
Young jockey Mario Gutierrez produced another polished ride aboard I’ll Have Another. His unflappable style has moved his mount one step closer to a Triple Crown sweep. Both Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another broke sharply. While Bodemeister, the 8-5 favorite, was able to slow the pace down some, well off the scorching early fractions he recorded in the Kentucky Derby, his kick could not withstand the late charge of I’ll Have Another in deep stretch.
“This is not about me,” said Gutierrez. “We talked about it with Mr. Reddam and Mr. O’Neill. We wanted to be a little bit closer to Bodemeister this time because normally that horse runs a huge race. My horse has a tremendous kick in the end. He has been proving that in the last three races. He didn’t disappoint again today. He has proven a lot of people wrong. I just have to prepare because I want to be at the same level as him. He’s an amazing horse.”
Bodemeister turned in another strong effort under jockey Mike Smith and was striding out strongly for the wire inside the final sixteenth of a mile to just miss.
“It’s one of those things where it’s good for the sport. It’s good for the Belmont. It’s tough,” said a disappointed Bob Baffert. “I felt really good about where he was. He looked like he was traveling nicely down the backside and coming to the three-eighths pole, he just sat on him. The fractions were more reasonable today, so turning for home I really thought he was going to do it. He just got a little late there at the end. The winner’s a good horse. It was a good horse race. I really can’t complain. We didn’t win it, but my horse ran his race.”
The Preakness was witnessed by a record crowd of 121,309 at Pimlico, edging the 2005 Preakness when 121,263 packed Old Hilltop. The attendance, which included InfieldFest partygoers who were treated to concerts by six bands, featured headliners Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa, as well as a National Volleyball League tournament with Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
“The numbers say it all. We had a tremendous event,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. “We knew in 2009 when we changed the landscape of the infield it would take three or four years to get to where we needed to get, and we are back. The crowd out there now is in the 21-35 group. They’re here to have a good time, not to cause mayhem. First-rate entertainment and world-class racing is a winning combination.”
I’ll Have Another heads to Belmont Park with a chance to forever etch his name in the record books. In the 1 ½-mile Belmont, the $35,000 OBS purchase by J. Paul Reddam has the opportunity to join Triple Crown champions Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).
“Congratulations to I’ll Have Another, J. Paul Reddam, and everyone on Team O’Neill,” said C. Steven Duncker, Chairman of NYRA’s Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to welcome the Derby and Preakness hero to New York for the Belmont Stakes on June 9. We anticipate a spectacular day of racing three weeks from now, and look forward to welcoming fans to beautiful Belmont Park.”
I’ll Have Another/McCue photo