05/17/2012 1:18PM

Preakness 2012: I'll Have Another will keep tabs on Bodemeister

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Barbara D. Livingston
I’ll Have Another goes for another blanket of flowers Saturday at Pimlico in the Preakness.

BALTIMORE – It seems that no matter what I’ll Have Another does, he has to do it again. He has won 4 times in 6 starts, including his last three, the most recent being the Kentucky Derby, in which he outran 19 other 3-year-olds.

Yet when he starts in the 137th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico, I’ll Have Another is unlikely to be a shorter price than Bodemeister, the Derby runner-up. Nothing new there. Despite I’ll Have Another’s record, he has yet to be favored in any of his races.

Regardless of the odds, I’ll Have Another is the focal point of the $1 million Preakness. He is the horse with the most to gain in this race, and the most to lose, for a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes on June 9 hangs in the balance.

[PREAKNESS STAKES: Get PPs, watch the race live, and bet with DRF Bets]

The Preakness outcome will likely hinge on the tactics employed by trainer Doug O’Neill and, in particular, jockey Mario Gutierrez during the first half of the 1 3/16-mile race. Bodemeister, trained by five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert, is the clear front-runner. But I’ll Have Another has plenty of natural speed in his own right, and, by drawing outside Bodemeister, can dictate how much pressure is applied to Bodemeister.

“I respect Bodemeister and his connections big-time,” said O’Neill, who never before has had a horse in the Preakness. “Bob has won five Preaknesses. Between Mario and I, we haven’t run in one Preakness.

“We’re planning on showing a little more speed. We think we have a colt who’s good enough and versatile enough to sit close, to not let Bodemeister have his way.”

There are nine other horses in the race, but their hopes likely will rise and fall based on the chess game up front. There are three likely scenarios:

◗ Bodemeister gets to the front, is afforded the opportunity to set saner fractions that he did in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, and leads from start to finish.

◗ I’ll Have Another sits right off Bodemeister’s hip, then, as he did in the Derby, proves the superior horse in the stretch run.

◗ Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another engage in a furious, Pyrrhic battle that leaves both vulnerable to the late-runners.

“If Doug doesn’t go after Bodemeister, I don’t know who will,” Mike Harrington, the trainer of Creative Cause, said Thursday morning.

“Everyone is hoping someone goes with Bodemeister. Maybe if Bodemeister goes in 47,” Harrington said, regarding the opening half-mile split, “we can lay close and outkick him.”

Though this is the first time Gutierrez has competed in races of this magnitude, he has proven himself coolly capable. In the Santa Anita Derby, he waited patiently while Creative Cause rocketed up inside of I’ll Have Another, careful not to move too soon. And in the Kentucky Derby, Gutierrez turned in a flawless ride, keeping I’ll Have Another in the clear, and avoiding the torrid pace up front.

“He’s programmed in a calm, confident way,” O’Neill said.

“It’s going to be a tough spot. I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat, based on his current form,” O’Neill said. “The beauty of I’ll Have Another is that he has a tremendous first step out of the gate. He could be right up on the pace, but if it’s a hot and heavy pace he can lay off, like he did in the Derby. Hopefully we can again come out on the winning end.”

I’ll Have Another has spent more than a week at Pimlico, arriving two days after the Derby. He appears to be thriving. On Thursday morning, at the conclusion of his gallop, he polished off a quarter-mile through the stretch in 26.69 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form .

“It’s probably like being LeBron James’s family member, watching him run up and down the court,” O’Neill said. “Holy mackerel.”

I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Creative Cause represent a California contingent responsible for three of the top five spots at the Derby. Creative Cause, who finished fifth in the Derby, was compromised by a wide trip under jockey Joel Rosario, who is back aboard.

“He only got beat three lengths, and he had the farthest trip,” said Harrington, who is also running a horse in the Preakness for the first time. “He got outrun, but he only got beat three lengths. It wasn’t Joel’s fault. He had no other choice.”

Went the Day Well finished fourth in the Derby. He broke a step slowly, then was forced to check sharply twice in the first three furlongs, causing him to lose more position.

“If he breaks, we’re live,” Barry Irwin, the chief executive of the Team Valor International partnership that owns Went the Day Well, said Thursday morning. “My immediate reaction after the race was that he ran a damn good race. But when I saw the blimp shot, and saw how he weaved through traffic and how fast he finished, wow.”

The other horses exiting the 20-horse Derby are Daddy Nose Best, who was 10th, and Optimizer, who was 11th.

Cozzetti, a winner of one of seven starts, was fourth in the Arkansas Derby in his last start.

Pretension is the only horse in the race with a win over the track, having captured the Canonero II Stakes on May 5.

Teeth of the Dog was third, and Tiger Walk fourth, in the Wood Memorial last time out.

Zetterholm has won three straight races, all against New York-breds.

The Preakness is the 12th race on a 13-race card of Thoroughbred races that begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Preakness is listed as 6:18 p.m.

The Preakness will be televised live by NBC, in a two-hour telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m. The NBC Sports Network will show two hours of the Preakness undercard, beginning at 2:30 p.m., and there will be a half-hour postrace show on NBCSN, beginning at 6:30.

The forecast from Weather.com for Saturday is for a beautiful day, with a high temperature of 81 degrees and only a 10-percent chance of rain.

– additional reporting by David Grening

 

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

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

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

Last Race

Watchmaker

ML

1

Tiger Walk

I. Correas

R. Dominguez

Wood Memorial, 4th

30-1

30-1

1

Teeth of the Dog

M. Matz

J. Bravo

Wood Memorial, 3rd

15-1

15-1

1

Pretension

C. Grove

J. Santiago

Canonero II, 1st

30-1

30-1

1

Zetterholm

R. Dutrow, Jr.

J. Alvarado

Patsyprospect, 1st

30-1

20-1

1

Went The Day Well

H. Motion

J. Velazquez

Kentucky Derby, 4th

6-1

6-1

1

Creative Cause

M. Harrington

J. Rosario

Kentucky Derby, 5th

6-1

6-1

1

Bodemeister

B. Baffert

M. Smith

Kentucky Derby, 2nd

9-5

8-5

1

Daddy Nose Best

S. Asmussen

J. Leparoux

Kentucky Derby, 10th

15-1

12-1

1

I'll Have Another

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez

Kentucky Derby, 1st

2-1

5-2

1

Optimizer

D. Lukas

C. Nakatani

Kentucky Derby, 11th

30-1

30-1

1

Cozzetti

D. Romans

J. Lezcano

Arkansas Derby, 4th

30-1

30-1