Baltimore, MD – Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another lived up to his name again, adding the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes to his impressive resume of Grade 1 victories while moving one race closer to grasping Thoroughbred Racing’s famed “Triple Crown.”
Six weeks ago the 3-yr-old colt, I’ll Have Another (trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez) won the prestigious Grade One, 1 1/8 mile, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby defeating Creative Cause and seven other 3-yr-old colts. Two weeks ago the Reddam Racing LLC owned colt drove past the front running favorite Bodemeister in the final 16th of a mile to win the Grade One $2,000,000 1 1/4mile Kentucky Derby.
Normally, a 3-yr-old colt heading north to Baltimore with back-to-back Derby victories would be made post time favorite for the Preakness. Not this year; not this Preakness. The 3-yr-old Bob Baffert trained colt Bodemeister, a 9 1/2 length winner of the April 14th Grade One, 1 1/8 mile $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby, made a lasting impression of his own the first Saturday of May. After running a heart pounding 3/4s of a mile in 1:09 3/5, Bodemeister tenaciously carried his lead to the last 16th of a mile, holding off would-be contenders to secure his second place finish, falling only a length and a half short of victory.
The shorter 1 3/16 mile distance of the Preakness and the defection of note worthy speed horses from the Kentucky Derby created a buzz among fans and handicappers that Bodemeister would be uncatchable on the tight turns of Pimlico Race Course. For the seventh time in as many lifetime starts, I’ll Have Another would not be the favored to win. Pimlico odds maker, Frank Carulli deemed Bodemeister (post position 7) the 8-5 morning line favorite and I’ll Have Another (post position 9) the 5-2 choice for second. A repeat performance of the Kentucky Derby would not suffice if the chestnut colt was to win the Preakness. Bodemeister was battle hardened and ready for the rematch.
With final odds of 2-1 on Bodemeister and 3-1 on I’ll Have Another, the field of eleven was sent on their way for the middle jewel of racings: Triple Crown.
As they ran through the straightaway, first time past the grandstand, jockey Mike Smith aboard Bodemeister eased his way past Pretension taking a cautious lead heading to the clubhouse turn as fellow Californian, Creative Cause tracked just to his outside with I’ll Have Another and his rider Mario Gutierrez stalking three-wide another length back in fourth.
With only mild pressure from Creative Cause up the backside, Bodemeister and Smith seemed to fulfill the prophecy that fans had placed before them. They cruised the first 3/4s in 1:11.72, eleven lengths slower than in the Derby two weeks before. As the field turned for home, Smith pointed his colt to the finish and asked for another gear. In a snap, the blazing Bodemeister opened up a 3 length advantage over a now-faltering Creative Cause. It was time to go; Jockey Mario Gutierrez asked I’ll Have Another to close the gap. The record breaking crowd of 121,309 roared with excitement as the rematch unfolded leaving the 1/8 pole. Bodemeister and Smith, pushing, digging and seemingly holding off the challenge; I’ll Have Another and Gutierrez reaching for everything in the tank, gaining inch by inch, stride by stride and with one final surge to the wire, I’ll Have Another and Gutierrez forged their way to the lead to win by a neck.
Raising his stick in victory, jockey Mario Gutierrez,(the little known rider from Mexico) had done it again! The perfect trip and the perfect finish…Another story book ending in the “Sport of Kings.”
The connections of I’ll Have Another, wild with enthusiastic celebratory hugs made their way to the winner’s circle following the incredible performance.
Doug O’Neill (winning trainer, I’ll Have Another): “I’m just numb. I could see him and I felt like he was coming, but you never want to expect that he’s going to be in front. I saw him coming. It seemed like the stretch never ends. Thank God. Usually you want it to end. Incredible.”
Mario Gutierrez (winning jockey, I’ll Have Another): “This is not about me. We talked about it with Mr. Reddam and Mr. O’Neill. We wanted to be a little bit closer to Bodemeister this time because normally that horse runs a huge race. My horse has a tremendous kick in the end. He has been proving that in the last three races. He didn’t disappoint again today.”
For trainer Doug O’Neill, the reality of training a “Triple Crown” winner was becoming more believable as each minute passed. O’Neill said the colt is well-suited to handle the demanding 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, the longest of the three races and called “The Test of the Champion.”
“He’s got the mind,” O’Neill said. “You’ve seen the way he’s handled the attention in Kentucky and here in Baltimore. He’s got a great confidence about him and he’s got the stride of a horse that a mile and a half won’t be a problem. He’s got the pedigree; so much stamina on the female side. And he’s lightly raced. After winning the Bob Lewis it enabled us to give him plenty of time before his next start. He’s still a fresh, happy, thriving horse that just seems to be getting better and better.”
Bob Baffert (trainer, Bodemeister, 2nd)- “It’s one of those things where it’s good for the sport. It’s good for the Belmont. It’s tough.”
“I felt really good about where he was. He looked like he was traveling nicely down the backside and coming to the three-eighths pole, he just sat on him. The fractions were more reasonable today, so turning for home I really thought he was going to do it. He just got a little late there at the end. The winner’s a good horse. It was a good horse race. I really can’t complain. We didn’t win it, but my horse ran his race.”
“The winner’s a good horse. He’ll get the respect now that he deserves. The California horses are really tough. They ran 1-2-3. I’m proud that as a trainer my horse showed up and he ran his race. He just got beat.”
Trainer Michael Matz reported that J. W. Singer’s Teeth of the Dog exited his fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness in good condition. “I was happy with the way he ran. He’s kind of inexperienced and he’s probably not as good as those horses right now. Teeth of the Dog will not be run in the Belmont Stakes, but Matz has the horse that may well be the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner’s most dangerous foe in his quest for a Triple Crown sweep. Union Rags, who finished a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby, was held out of the Preakness to train for the Belmont Stakes.
Union Rags captured the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park last fall. Matz is confident that Union Rags will be well suited to the 1 1/2 -mile oval, the sweeping turns and the relatively deep racing surface.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Matz said. “He’s won there before, so I don’t think that part of it will be a problem.”
Eleven other 3-yr-olds have completed the Kentucky Derby-Preakness double since 1978. All fell short of the challenge. Coincidently, only eleven horses since 1919 have won all three legs of the “Triple Crown” series.
Maybe this time around twelve is the lucky number. For the connections of I’ll Have Another, it’s one more race. One more thrilling stretch drive to victory and Affirmed’s 34 year reign of the “Triple Crown” throne will come to an end.
Next stop Belmont Park. Next race, “The Belmont Stakes” Saturday, June 9th in Elmont, New York.
A lot can be said for the Championship quality performance of the Maryland Jockey Club and their superb handling of this year’s Preakness Stakes.
The InfieldFest partygoers were treated to concerts by six bands, featured headliners were Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa, as well as a National Volleyball League tournament with Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhauser and Todd Rogers.
A record crowd of 121,309 were in attendance for the thirteen race thoroughbred card that generated an all-sources handle of $80,463,005.
WRITTEN REPORT AND ALL PHOTOS BY: Rick Buckley