05/14/2012 12:54PM

Preakness Pace, Or Lack Thereof

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Hansen’s withdrawal this morning (Monday) from the Preakness, following the defection of Trinniberg a couple of days earlier, means that, unless something bizarre happens or we suddenly get a new shooter with lots of early speed, the pace in Saturday’s Preakness will be very different from the scorching pace we saw in the Kentucky Derby.

Barring a bad start, Bodemeister will go to the lead Saturday as he did when such a game second in the Derby. But with no other one-way speed in this Preakness as of this writing, Bodemeister figures to be able to go a lot slower early this time. And the way it looks to me, I think I’ll Have Another, who masks his early foot because he is also able to rate so kindly, will be laying second early, just as he did when he won the Robert Lewis and Santa Anita Derby.

I suppose there is always a chance another horse might go nuts early here, but I can’t imagine who that could even be. Brimstone Island did show a bit of speed early in his career, but that was against claimers in slow-paced races. Cozzetti was close up early twice, but they were slow-paced races, one on turf and the other an off-the-turfer. Same deal with Pretension. He twice contested the lead, but though slow fractions. Teeth of the Dog did get his maiden win in front-running fashion, but did so after setting – you guessed it – a slow pace.

Maybe Hierro could have been close early as the Preakness would have been his first start beyond a mile. But he defected from the Preakness Monday, too.

Perhaps this is fitting. I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister were deservedly the two most talked about after the Derby – I’ll Have Another, because, well, he won, and Bodemeister, because he fought so gamely after setting that extreme pace – and they will be the overwhelming first two Preakness betting favorites Saturday. They might well have this Preakness all to themselves, and from the moment the gate opens.