I’ll Have Another jumped to the head of the class in this year’s 3-year-old division after winning Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs in front of a crowd of 165,307, the largest Derby attendance in history.
Ridden perfectly by young Mario Gutirerrez, I’ll Have Another collared pacesetter Bodemeister in the last sixteenth of a mile to win the 1 ¼-mile race by 1 1/2lengths in 2:01.83. Bodemeister, sent off as the race favorite, held second. Dullahan finished third and Went the Day Well was a fast-closing fourth. Union Rags, second choice in the wagering, finished 7th after a dismal beginning that landed him in 19th position through the early stages.
I’ll Have Another, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his previous start for trainer Doug O’Neill, races in the colors of J. Paul Reddam and his wife, Zillah.
“To win a race like this everything has to go pretty much according to plan,” said J. Paul Reddam. “That’s the way it’s been since the horse started back this winter. When he came into Kentucky—he did his primary work, of course, in California, and everyone was kind of wondering about that. Doug had a plan and he followed the plan, and the horse was doing super every day. We kind of greet each other every day with well, so far so good. That went through today.
“I’m just so excited for Doug and Dennis (Doug’s brother) who picked out the horse,” Reddam added. “Mario, I was telling some folks today that was the second time Mario has ridden on the dirt at Churchill Downs, and the first time was earlier today. We got him the experience he needed. It went off flawlessly. I’m really happy for the whole team.”
Gutierrez, making his first start in the Kentucky Derby, rode the race like a Derby veteran, but deferred much of the credit to his mount.
“He broke sharp, as he usually does,” Gutierrez said. “He’s such a professional horse. He’s a really calm horse. I knew he was going to help me 100 percent through the first part. In the end, he just gives 100 percent all the time. As soon as you ask him, he throws everything on the race, and he didn’t disappoint today.”
When asked if he thought he could catch Bodemeister in the stretch, he replied: “I know my horse was reaching every single step of the way, but I wasn’t going to stop riding until I was passing the wire. That is when the horse race is finished.”
O’Neill had touted his charge all week. After arriving at Churchill Downs, the Southern California-based conditioner said he wouldn’t trade places with anyone else heading into the race because of how well I’ll Have Another was training.
“I think he was such a prize because of me training him and Mario riding,” O’Neill said. “If it would have been Pletcher of Velazquez, I bet you it would have been 9-2. How do you win the Santa Anita Derby and not be one of the top five choices? I know the Beyer numbers. He didn’t put up crazy high Beyer numbers. When they win the way he did, we were super confident in this colt.
“I got extremely lucky when Paul and Zillah called me to train for him,” O’Neil added during the Derby press conference. “They have a great group of trainers and I’m blessed to be one of them.”
I’ll Have Another , a son of Flower Alley bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, was purchased at Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. last April for $35,000. He was broken, trained and sold by Eisaman Equine.
Trainer Bob Baffert was proud of Bodemeister’s runner-up effort. The lightly-raced son of Empire Maker set fast fractions of :22.32, :45.39 and 1:09.80. He opened up three lengths on the field at the head of the lane but could not withstand the late charge of I’ll Have Another.
“He was doing it easily,” Baffert said. “He was being pressed, but he’s a brilliant horse. That’s the way he wanted to run. He ran his race. He was there and he just got tired a little bit. He’s only run four times. I was really proud of him. He’s a super impressive horse. That’s the only time I’ve run second where I’ve been happy because he ran his race.”
Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race card was a record, totaling $187 million, an increase of 13.2 percent from the 2011 total of $165.2 million.
I’ll Have Another/Reed Palmer photo