05/14/2012 3:36PM

Preakness 2012: Field of 11 or 12 looks likely at Pimlico

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Bodemeister, with exercise rider George Alvarez up, gallops in the mud Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

With entry day fast approaching Wednesday for the 137th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico, the prospective field came into sharper focus Monday, with Hansen, Hierro, and the longshot Brimstone Island bowing out, leaving a likely field of 11 or 12 for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The Preakness field will be headed by I’ll Have Another, the Kentucky Derby winner; and Bodemeister, who finished second in the Derby. It also will include Went the Day Well, fourth in the Derby, and Creative Cause, who was fifth.

The size of the field for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness should come in under the maximum of 14, so no one should be excluded, though there could be some tweaks to the field between Monday and Wednesday.

Pimlico officials on Monday said Daddy Nose Best, 10th in the Derby, was under consideration for the race. A track press release quoted owner Bob Zollars as saying a decision would be made Tuesday after he talks to trainer Steve Asmussen. Daddy Nose Best worked a half-mile in 53 seconds Monday at Churchill Downs.

Bob Baffert, trainer of Bodemeister, on Monday said he was leaning against running Liaison, but he wanted to wait another day before making a final decision in concert with owner Arnold Zetcher. Liaison was sixth in the Derby.

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

Baffert also trains Paynter, who was second in the Derby Trial to Hierro in his last start and who worked a half-mile in 50.20 seconds at Churchill Downs on Monday. Like Bodemeister, Paynter is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who said on Twitter that Paynter would be entered in a $50,000 allowance race going 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Pimlico.

Asked on Monday if Paynter might be entered in the Preakness as insurance for Bodemeister, Baffert said, “No, not at all.”

Baffert was at Churchill Downs on Monday morning to observe his Pimlico runners, who are scheduled to fly to Baltimore on Wednesday. He was happy with what he saw of Bodemeister.

“After the race, I thought he’d be completely wiped out, but he cooled out pretty quick and was eating his hay at the front of the stall,” Baffert said. “I was afraid he was going to go into hibernation for about three days, get in a corner of his stall with his ears pinned, sulking, but he never did. He’s a pretty amazing animal.”

Baffert said Bodemeister would not work between the Derby and Preakness.

“He’s just going to gallop,” Baffert said. “He looks good. He’s bright, happy, his weight looks good.”

Liaison “looks good, but is still a little light,” Baffert said.

Martin Garcia rode Liaison in the Derby. Though Garcia has had most of his success with Baffert – they won the Preakness two years ago with Lookin At Lucky – Baffert said Garcia has expressed a desire to not be committed to working horses for Baffert on a regular basis. Baffert believes they can work out their differences.

“He’s not completely out,” Baffert said.

Assuming Liaison does not run, and there are no last-second additions, the field for the Preakness is expected to be Bodemeister (Mike Smith the rider), Cozzetti (Jose Lezcano), Creative Cause (Joel Rosario), Guyana Star Dweej (Alex Solis), I’ll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez), Optimizer (Corey Nakatani), Pretension (Javier Santiago), Teeth of the Dog (Joe Bravo), Tiger Walk (Kent Desormeaux), Went the Day Well (John Velazquez), and Zetterholm (Junior Alvarado). Daddy Nose Best is possible. Garrett Gomez rode him in the Derby.

Entries for the Preakness are due Wednnesday morning, and post positions will be drawn 6 p.m. Wednesday at the track.

Hansen’s defection from the Preakness was not a surprise; his trainer, Mike Maker, said last week that he was leaning against running. On Monday, Dr. Kendall Hansen, the majority owner of Hansen, said the Preakness distance was likely beyond Hansen’s scope at this point in his career. He said the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 9 was the next likely spot for Hansen.

Hierro, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on Monday at Churchill Downs, was removed from consideration by owner Barbara Banke later Monday morning. In a press release from her Stonestreet Stables, Banke said Hierro would “consider other options.”

Hierro has never raced beyond a mile and has never won outside of Churchill Downs. In his lone start around two turns, he finished last of five in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in January.

Both Cozzetti and Optimizer worked at Churchill Downs on Monday. Cozzetti went five furlongs on the muddy surface in 58.80 seconds, while Optimizer was timed in 49.80 for a half-mile.

Cozzetti’s time was easily the best of nine at the distance.

“He’s fresh, and he’s going to have to run fast,” trainer Dale Romans said. “So we let him work fast.”

Meanwhile at Pimlico, I’ll Have Another went through another strong gallop Monday morning. Trainer Doug O’Neill chose to send the colt to the track earlier than usual to dodge expected rain later in the morning.

With the track still fast, and with exercise rider Jonny Garcia up, I’ll Have Another was accompanied to the five-furlong pole by his multi-millionaire pony, Lava Man, before breaking off into a very lively gallop of three-quarters of a mile. Pimlico clocker Mark Euga caught the colt in 26.60 seconds from the quarter pole to the wire, then out another furlong in 41.40.

“He’s showing great energy,” O’Neill said later. “That’s pretty much what we do with him all the time. We let him put his feet where he wants to put them. It’s what we’ll do with him the rest of the week, more or less. We had success with him doing it like that this winter in California, we had success with it in Kentucky, and hopefully, we’ll have success with it here.”

The rest of Monday and into Tuesday was supposed to bring more rain, but the forecast for the rest of the week in the Baltimore area looks very promising. High temperatures for Friday and Saturday are supposed to near 80, and there is very little chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

– additional reporting by Byron King and Marty McGee