05/17/2012 2:47PM

Crist: Preakness look like slight shuffle of Derby's top flight

Barbara D. Livingston
Bodemeister led the Kentucky Derby field through demanding fractions, which has led to many a Derby front-runner finishing near the back of the pack, but Bodemeister had enough left to hold second when he was passed by I’ll Have Another.

On paper, the 137th Preakness is a four-horse race, a rematch among the 1-2-4-5 finishers in the Kentucky Derby. Those who finished farther back at Churchill Downs did so without any apparent excuse, and the new shooters in the field of 11 look hopelessly overmatched. So the question facing handicappers is whether the Derby established a clear pecking order among the top four Derby returnees, who were separated by only three lengths at the finish, or whether the race might unfold differently enough to jumble the order of finish from Louisville. I think that it can, which is why I'm picking the race Bodemeister (second in the Derby), Creative Cause (fifth), I'll Have Another (first) and Went the Day Well (fourth) in that order.

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

I'll Have Another was a thoroughly deserving 1 1/2-length winner of the Derby, has won three straight stakes races, and still has room to improve making just his seventh career start on Saturday. It is neither disrespectful nor critical, however, to point out that he had an absolutely perfect trip under a terrific ride from a jockey who looked more like a crafty veteran than a Derby rookie.

By the top of the stretch, he had managed to save ground on both turns despite breaking from post 19, and was in the spot where 17 other horses wanted to be -- fourth behind the three tiring speed horses and close enough to run down the best of them, Bodemeister. That doesn't mean he was lucky or unworthy, only that things could not have gone better for him.

Bodemeister, on the other hand, simply went too fast too soon, reeling off some of the fastest fractions in Derby history after drawing inside the other speed in the race.  Most Derby front-runners who hang up the kind of splits he posted end up staggering home and finishing in the bottom half of the field. Bodemeister was valiant to hang on for second.

With the other Derby speed horses, Trinniberg and Hansen, skipping the Preakness, Bodemsiter should be able to make the lead without going anything like 22.32, 45.39, and 1:09.80 early. Nor does it hurt that the Preakness is a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby.

Creative Cause may offer some value at 6-1. He has been a beacon of consistency in this crop, running in eight straight Grade 1 or 2 stakes with seven 1-2-3 finishes before his close fifth in Louisville. He has also beaten both I'll Have Another (in the Best Pal) and Bodemeister (in the San Felipe.) He made a big middle move in the Derby, picking off seven rivals to advance from 10th to third, but was fanned at least eight paths wide around the stretch turn. He couldn't sustain his run and was passed by Dullahan and Went the Day Well in the final yards, but could hang in much better at the shorter distance and with fewer horses to circle.

Went the Day Well made a decent late run but was passing tired horses down the lane and will have to improve to catch the favorites - but he might. Each of his six starts has been better than the previous one.

If you're trying to find a clever longshot to sneak into the trifecta or superfecta, there's not much to choose from. Daddy Nose Best could get a piece if he runs back to his Sunland Derby but may simply be a cut below those who finished in front of him in his dull Derby performance. Teeth of the Dog and Tiger Walk, who skipped the Derby after running third and fourth in the Wood Memorial, look next-best, but given how the 1-2 Wood finishers performed in Lousiville - Gemologist was 16th and Alpha was 12th - it's hard to get excited about their chances.

If you absolutely have to include a longshot, you could do worse than Zetterholm at 20-1. His races against fellow New York-breds aren't very quick, but he has won three straight and his trainer, Rick Dutrow, has done well shipping to Maryland: Over the last five years he has sent 13 horses to Laurel or Pimlico for graded stakes races and run 1-2-3-4 with 10 of them, including Big Brown's Preakness victory in 2008 and Yawanna Twist's fourth in the 2010 Preakness at 16-1.

Bodemeister was trying to buck history in Kentucky, where he would have become the first Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 not to have raced as a 2-year-old. On Saturday, he will be trying to become only the third Derby runner-up in the last 50 years (from 36 starters) to win the Preakness. But he ran so well in defeat in the Derby that I'll have another try with him at Pimlico.

Preakness Stakes (G1), Post Time: 6:05 ET Saturday

Purse: $1,000,000; 1 3/16 miles





Last Race




Tiger Walk

I. Correas

R. Dominguez

Wood Memorial, 4th




Teeth of the Dog

M. Matz

J. Bravo

Wood Memorial, 3rd





C. Grove

J. Santiago

Canonero II, 1st





R. Dutrow, Jr.

J. Alvarado

Patsyprospect, 1st




Went The Day Well

H. Motion

J. Velazquez

Kentucky Derby, 4th




Creative Cause

M. Harrington

J. Rosario

Kentucky Derby, 5th





B. Baffert

M. Smith

Kentucky Derby, 2nd




Daddy Nose Best

S. Asmussen

J. Leparoux

Kentucky Derby, 10th




I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez

Kentucky Derby, 1st





D. Lukas

C. Nakatani

Kentucky Derby, 11th





D. Romans

J. Lezcano

Arkansas Derby, 4th