BALTIMORE, MD,--May 19, 2012-

I'll Have Another on the outside, Bodemeister and Creative Cause
Photo by Toni Pricci
I'll Have Another on the outside, Bodemeister and Creative Cause


10:34 P.M., Sunday--Just got home from Baltimore this minute to find HRI up and running. Bandwidth issues beyond our control prevented the following from being posted early Preakness evening. Better late than never. Hope you agree. More as soon as I get a chance Monday. Sorry for any inconveniece.

6:52 P.M., Saturday--Most--if not all--of the pre-race Preakness storyline surrounded the strong favorites.

Can Bodemeister be the same horse in the Triple Crown’s second jewel as he was in Hot Springs and Louisville?

And whether he’s the same horse or not, can I’ll Have Another’s connections afford to let him get away soft?

The competition for the early Preakness lead was non-existent on paper. I’ll Have Another would have to use his tactical speed early to give himself the best, and perhaps only, chance to run his main rival down like he did two weeks ago.

But playing the role of stalker is different from playing the role of presser. A stalker, which is tough enough, stay somewhere off the leader’s flank in close attendance.

And when a stalker moves at the speed horse, it must be a decisive thrust. If not, the leader, all things being equal, will have something in reserve and repulse the challenge.

The presser’s role is different; it’s harder. It takes a rider with tremendous timing, strength, confidence and steel nerves not only to measure the energy of the horse beneath him but also that of his rival. Knowing when to pull the trigger is everything.

At the draw for post positions on Wednesday, Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International and owner of Went The Day Well, said it all in front of a national television audience.

“The pressure is on I’ll Have Another to make it a horse race.” The inference was clear: The rest of us, including the Derby winner, have very little chance if he doesn’t. Even I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, admitted as much.

Unlike the Derby, Mario Gutierrez wasn’t sneaking up on anyone at Old Hilltop. Given the race dynamics, Gutierrez’s course was clear. Nothing to it; just do it.

The presser is forced to play a game of chicken. He needs to put his horse close to his speedy rival, but not too close or he’ll wear himself out chasing the leader’s pace.

But the rider has to know when to ease back, too, pushing and pulling, forward and back. How much are these tactics taking out of my horse? How much does the leader have left? It’s a dangerous game of equine roulette.

Play the game and kill your chances, or not. Well, Gutierrez, again riding with supreme confidence, let Bode go while he bided his time in fourth.

It was another Californian, Creative Cause, who took up the chase, the role that I’ll Have Another was supposed to play.

And the chilly Gutierrez, riding the race as it came up, and again showing supreme confidence in his horse, riding his Santa Anita Derby race back, tracked the two leaders around the far turn.

When Gutierrez elected to go outside at the quarter pole for a clear run, instead of staying inside and waiting until the straight, you knew he was going to be double tough.

Double tough, tough as in Belmont Park here we come! With a chance to make history.

The game finally won one. Three weeks, and we’ll find out if the Derby and Preakness winner has another in him.

***

1:14 p.m. Well, Bob Baffert is going to have at least one winning favorite on the card, that would be Paynter, at 1-9 on the odds board while meeting preliminary allowance types after finishing second in the G3 Derby Trail at Churchill after finishing fourth, beaten a scany 3-3/4 lengths by I'll Have Another and Creative Cause, who were noses apart in the G1 Santa Anita Derby.

While horses have come from off the pace on the main track races to this point, the inside seems to be carrying the speed after they're passed by winning favorites in the two two-turn races run thus far.

That makes it interesting later on--if the track is helping carry Bodemeister but not hindering I'll Have Another or any other rivals, for that matter, looking to make an impression late.

***

11:32 Form keeps holding, even Over There. Frankel, you might remember him, "the world's best horse," remained undefeated in his return, stalking his rabbit stablemate, before drawing off to win by about 6 lengths under an energetic Tom Queally. Major goal is the King George Queen Elizabeth at some place called Ascot.

And form keeps holding, did we mention that? Baileys Beach, 3-5, completed a chalky early double and Zagora, dropping out of the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, returned to the G3 level in the Gallorette Handicap as the 121-pound highweight amd won comfortably over Speak East Gal with second favorite Laughing behind in third. The Gallorette was Zagora's third G3 score this year.

Time to get back into the big time for this impressive turf mare.

***

10:32 a.m It's sunny, fast, and firm here as the horses for the first race, a 5-furlong turf sprint, just crossed the finish line. The day got off to a formful start as Joe Bravo guided Varsity to a clear cut victory the 15-1 Agonistic.

The conditions fro racing are perfect at the moment but the temperature is on the rise. The over-under was 80 as of yesterday but it looks like the play is going to be the over.

We'll watch that trend throughout the day and see whether the heat is going to hold some hooves to the fire. The nights have been cool and brisk, good sleeping weather for man and beast.

***

Updated scratches, hot off the copy machine:

Race 2: Arctic Raven
Race 4: Leadhills. Put A. Arroyo on #4
Race 5: No Attraction, Unlikely Hero, Hot Escapade
Race 7: Lily Of Johar. Put Dunkleberger on #4
Race 8: My Cuz C J, Broad Rule, Ravato
Race 9: Going To Market, Achilles
Race 10: Pinch Pie
Preakness: Put Ramon Dominguez on Tiger Walk
Race 13: Rider Changes--Put G Garcia on #4, M. Franklin on #5, A. Delgado on #6, R. Folgelsonger on #11