Updated on 05/21/2012 1:25PM

Preakness 2012: I'll Have Another runs down Bodemeister to keep Triple Crown hopes alive

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Barbara D. Livingston
I'll Have Another (left) outfinishes pacesetter Bodemeister to win the Preakness Stakes. He will go for a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

BALTIMORE – I’ll Have Another. And another. And another?

I’ll Have Another, the Kentucky Derby winner, added the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico to his win streak Saturday, setting up a Triple Crown bid in three weeks in the Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park.

As he did in the Derby two weeks ago, I’ll Have Another caught front-running Bodemeister in the final yards to prevail, but the Preakness was far closer, far more dramatic, and, for I’ll Have Another, even more impressive.

Bodemeister got away with much saner fractions than he did in the Derby, leaving him with more in reserve for the stretch run of a race that is 110 yards shorter than the Derby. But I’ll Have Another, again ridden flawlessly by Mario Gutierrez, wore down Bodemeister in the final yards to win by a neck.

As in the Derby, Gutierrez was riding in the Preakness for the first time.

The excellence with which the top two ran was underscored by the fact they finished 8 3/4 lengths clear of third-place Creative Cause, giving California-based 3-year-olds a sweep of the top three spots. And I’ll Have Another completed 1 3/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:55.94, an excellent time over a surface that played deep and tiring all afternoon. The preliminary Beyer Speed Figure was a lofty 109.

[PREAKNESS STAKES: Replay, chart, complete postrace coverage]

Joel Rosario, rider of Creative Cause, rode in the race despite finding out earlier in the afternoon that his brother, a police officer in the Dominican Republic, had been killed in a traffic accident.

Zetterholm was fourth in the Preakness and was followed, in order, by Teeth of the Dog, Optimizer, Cozzetti, Tiger Walk, Daddy Nose Best, Went the Day Well, and Pretension.

Doug O’Neill trains I’ll Have Another for owner Paul Reddam. He has won all four of his starts this year and has won 5 of 7 lifetime.

“I can’t put this into words,” O’Neill said. “What a horse. Mario was so patient. I’m numb.

“It seemed like he’s been riding this racetrack his whole life,” O’Neill said of Gutierrez. “He’s so patient, and he kept him out of trouble.”

I’ll Have Another ($8.40) was much shorter than the 15-1 price he was in the Derby, but he was still the second choice to Bodemeister, who was favored in the Derby and was the 8-5 favorite in the Preakness. I’ll Have Another had been at Pimlico for 12 days and had looked sensational in his gallops in the days preceding the race.

“He came out of the Derby unbelievable,” O’Neill said. “He handled the track great every day.”

It was a gorgeous afternoon at Pimlico, with high temperatures in the low 80s, very little humidity, and a comfortable breeze. The attendance was announced as 121,309, which would be a record.

The crowd let out a cheer as the gates opened. Bodemeister went to the front and set fractions of 23.79 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.68 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:11.72 for six furlongs. By comparison, he ran the first six furlongs of the Derby in 1:09.80.

[PIMLICO SATURDAY: Stakes results and replays for Preakness undercard]

Creative Cause was his closest pursuer at that point of the Preakness, with I’ll Have Another, who was three paths wide on the first turn in fourth place, continuing with an outside path down the backstretch and into the far turn.

Bodemeister began to draw away from Creative Cause at the top of the stretch, but then I’ll Have Another kicked into gear. He was three lengths behind with a furlong to go.

“I didn’t feel confident he was going to get there until 10 yards from the wire,” Reddam said.

“Those are the kind of races you hate to lose,” O’Neill said. “When you win – yelling at the top of your lungs, and see your horse in front at the wire – it’s incredible.”

Neither Bob Baffert, the trainer of Bodemeister, nor Mike Smith, who rode him, offered any excuses.

“I felt pretty good about where he was,” Baffert said. “The fractions were more reasonable today. He just got a little late. And the winner’s a good horse. He’ll get the respect he deserves.”

Said Smith: “He ran brilliant. I asked him to run, he opened up, laid it down, I said, ‘There’s no way he catches me.’ I wasn’t folding at the end. He just caught me, it’s that plain and simple.”

Baffert has seen enough of I’ll Have Another for now. He said Bodemeister would not run in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

“The bus stops here,” he said.

In the Belmont, I’ll Have Another will be attempting to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, and the first since Affirmed in 1978. The current drought is the longest since Sir Barton swept the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont in 1919.

Among those expected to face I’ll Have Another in the Belmont are Dullahan, who was third in the Derby; and Union Rags, who finished seventh in the Derby after a rough trip. Both skipped the Preakness to await the Belmont.

“We’re thinking Triple Crown, baby,” O’Neill said. “He’s a special horse.”

O’Neill, who since the Derby has been subjected to national scrutiny over his record of medication violations, understands the attention will become more pronounced leading up to the Belmont.

“We know we play by the rules,” said O’Neill, who might very well point to I’ll Have Another winning the Derby and Preakness – Triple Crown races in two different states outside his home state of California – as Exhibits A and B.

– additional reporting by David Grening