05/15/2012 1:33PM

Preakness 2012: Kentucky Derby disappointments can be overcome

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Barbara D. Livingston
Creative Cause had clear aim on the leader in the Kentucky Derby but failed to get the job done.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bottom line is, Derby Day just wasn’t their day.

For a not-insignificant number of Preakness winners, the disappointment of their efforts two weeks beforehand in the Kentucky Derby sometimes has been difficult to rationalize. Some, such as Snow Chief (1986), Point Given (2001), and Lookin At Lucky (2010), were victimized by pace or trip. Others, such as Hansel (1991) and Tabasco Cat (1994), supposedly didn’t care for the Churchill Downs surface. Still others, such as Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Shackleford (2011), just plain weren’t good enough.

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Ten of the last 30 Preakness winners ran fourth or worse in the Derby, and yet all was forgiven and forgotten a couple of weeks later at Pimlico. Four starters in the 137th running of the Preakness on Saturday are in similar situations: Went the Day Well (fourth in the Derby), Creative Cause (fifth), Daddy Nose Best (10th), and Optimizer (11th).

Of those, Creative Cause and Daddy Nose Best probably best fit the profile of the Derby disappointer: Both were highly regarded coming into the race, being sent away at respective odds of 11-1 and 14-1, and both have shown themselves capable of faring better. (Conversely, Went the Day Well has been drawing post-Derby praise for a stout closing effort while outrunning his odds of 30-1, while Optimizer, a 42-1 shot, appears to wheel back on little more than hope and a prayer.)

In the Derby, Creative Cause had every opportunity to run down Bodemeister and fend off I’ll Have Another. Approaching the eighth pole, Creative Cause had dead aim, but it was I’ll Have Another, and not him, who finished strongly to prevail, with Creative Cause finishing three lengths behind him.

“I thought my horse ran great,” Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause, said Tuesday from California. “He covered more ground than any horse in the race,” which is verified by Trakus data. Indeed, Creative Cause, very wide on the final turn, ran 6,709 feet, farther than any other and 29 more feet than I’ll Have Another.

“He came out of the race great, so we thought why not take a shot,” added Harrington. “My only fear is that there doesn’t look like there’s a lot of speed in there [to challenge Bodemeister], so it may be a merry-go-round race. But obviously we fit and we’re going to give it a try.”

Daddy Nose Best, whose training moves leading up to the Derby made him something of a “wise guy” horse, was never close in the race, racing in mid-pack throughout, finishing 11 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

“It was a huge disappointment,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He was completely jerked off the bridle by the pace that Bodemeister set.” Otherwise, he added, “He had a good trip. No excuses.”

Based on a number of factors – including a victory in the Sunland Derby, as well as how he trained at Churchill before and after the Derby – Daddy Nose Best is being given the benefit of the doubt by Asmussen, who has won two of the last five runnings of the Preakness with Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

“He came out of his race very well, and he’s a very good 3-year-old,” he said.

Given the ample precedents that exist, it’s proven that the Preakness can be won by the Derby winner, or its second- or third-place finisher, or even a “new shooter.” But it can also be won by a Derby also-ran who just didn’t put his best foot forward at Churchill.

“Just because you don’t finish in the money in one race doesn’t mean you can’t win the next one,” said Dale Romans, who won the Preakness last year with Shackleford, fourth in the Derby. “It happens every single day in racing, so it makes sense that it can happen in these two races, too.”

– additional reporting by Byron King