05/10/2012 3:50PM

2012 Preakness: Judging by morning gallops, I'll Have Another is doing great

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Jerry Dzierwinski/Maryland Jockey Club
I'll Have Another arrived early to get familiar with Pimlico and will gallop to stay in shape for the May 19 Preakness.

Mario Gutierrez threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, and trainer Doug O’Neill will do the same thing at an Orioles game on Tuesday in Baltimore. Paul Reddam was scheduled to be on CNBC on Friday, too, from New York. The celebrity that comes with winning the Kentucky Derby has been instantaneous and, at times, overwhelming for the connections of I’ll Have Another, but by the time the 137th Preakness Stakes rolls around on May 19 at Pimlico, all say the focus will be squarely where it should be, on the racetrack.

“I’m a little bit tired. I’m trying not to say no to anyone,” Gutierrez, who rode I’ll Have Another to the Derby victory on Saturday at Churchill Downs, said during a national teleconference on Thursday. “It’s been great exposure. I’m trying to enjoy it. But we still have a big race coming up.

“This has absolutely changed my life, but hopefully everybody understands that racing is my career, and I want to be focused on the big race coming up.”

Indeed, as gratifying as a Derby victory can be, the whirlwind of the Triple Crown ramps up inexorably at Pimlico. No longer is the question – who will win the Derby from amongst a field of 20? Now, it’s simply – can the Derby winner do it again?

[PREAKNESS STAKES: PPs, contender profiles, video, latest news]

“Paul Reddam is a big hockey fan,” O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, said Thursday while on the teleconference. “He keeps reminding us it’s the first period. We’re up 1-0. But there’s still two periods to go.”

But, “So far, so good,” with I’ll Have Another, O’Neill said.

“He hasn’t missed an oat in months,” he said. “You can’t afford to have any hiccups when you’re talking the two-week turnaround. He looks fantastic out here.”

I’ll Have Another traveled from Louisville to Baltimore on Sunday, the day after he won the Derby as a 15-1 shot. O’Neill said I’ll Have Another will not have a workout between the Derby and Preakness. But O’Neill lets I’ll Have Another roll along pretty strongly in his daily gallops.

“I’ll Have Another came out of the Derby in fantastic shape,” O’Neill said. “With my lack of knowledge about Churchill Downs and Pimlico, I couldn’t make a case that he’d be better off at Churchill Downs than at Pimlico, so the thinking was to get to Pimlico and get him fit and ready to go.

“He galloped this morning, and I loved the way he went. He’ll have that kind of gallop right up to the race.

“He clips around there with 15-second eighths every morning, just galloping,” O’Neill added. “He covers a lot of ground without a lot of effort.”

O’Neill returned briefly to Southern California after the Derby, but he is now in Baltimore and will remain there through the Preakness. Gutierrez is scheduled to visit Hastings in Vancouver, B.C., over the weekend. He said he plans on arriving in Baltimore several days before the Preakness to familiarize himself with Pimlico, but downplayed that it was any big deal, even though he has never ridden there before.

“All tracks are the same, dirt, a circle,” Gutierrez said. “I’ll gallop a few, just prepare like I did for the Kentucky Derby.”

In Louisville, Reddam rented a house for O’Neill’s staff, including hot walkers, grooms, and exercise riders, and the same arrangements have been made in Baltimore. O’Neill joked that he has been “tossing around some bread rolls with the boys” to get his arm in shape for throwing out the first pitch next Tuesday night.

Besides that perk, O’Neill said Maryland Jockey Club officials were attempting to arrange a visit to summer camp for the Baltimore Ravens.

“They’re treating us like celebrities,” O’Neill said, “and hopefully they will until they realize we’re not.”

As of Thursday, there were 17 horses still under consideration for the Preakness, but fewer are expected to be entered on Wednesday. The Preakness has a maximum field of 14, plus two also-eligibles.

Two potential Preakness runners – Teeth of the Dog and Zetterholm – are entered in the Peter Pan Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park, but Teeth of the Dog is expected to scratch in favor of the Preakness.

Unlike the Derby, which solely uses graded earnings for an oversubscribed field, the Preakness uses a convoluted, three-tiered process. The first seven of the 14 starters are determined by graded stakes earnings. The next four are those who have the most earnings in non-restricted stakes. The next three – as well as the two also-eligibles – are based on lifetime earnings.