I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby, finishing 1½ lengths in front of Bodemeister, and is being prepared for the 137th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. The 11th and last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes was Affirmed in 1978.
The Triple Crown is a demanding test with three races run over three different tracks at different distances in a span of five weeks.
“If we hadn’t won the Bob Lewis, our horse wouldn’t be as fresh as he is right now,” O’Neill said. “He ran so huge in the Bob Lewis that we were able to give him nine weeks between that second start.
“I think we’re really seeing the fruits of that right now. He’s only had three starts. He’s still fresh-legged. If anything, he’s thriving right now. Like every other sport, you’ve got to stay injury-free. If he stays injury-free and healthy, I think he’s the type of horse that could do it.”
After an off-day Tuesday because of heavy morning rain, I’ll Have Another returned to the track at Pimlico Wednesday morning for his usual half-mile jog and brisk six to eight-furlong gallop under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
“He looks fantastic; great energy,” O’Neill said. “He’s maintained his beautiful, long stride. We’re just very happy with each day that goes by.”
I’ll Have Another had spent a quiet week at Pimlico after his Kentucky Derby victory, and O’Neill said he has adjusted easily to the increased level of activity on the track’s grounds this week.
“He’s good,” O’Neill said. “As more trucks come and Clydesdales are walking around, you can definitely tell that he’s like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t see that yesterday.’ He’s such a cool horse and once he sees something once he’s fine. He’s settled right in.”
In the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another was able to sit off the fast early pace set by Bodemeister and make his winning move in the stretch. With Derby runners Trinniberg and Hansen passing the Preakness, Bodemeister looks to be the lone speed in the 11-horse field and O’Neill said he and jockey Mario Gutierrez will have to change tactics. O’Neill talked about the strategy for the Preakness with retired Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte, who visited Pimlico over the weekend. Turcotte rode two Preakness winners, Tom Rolfe in 1965 and Triple Crown winner Secretariat in 1973.
“He just said you want to make sure that you don’t get too far back, especially around the far turn here -- the track takes a little bit of an uphill turn,” O’Neill said. “And he said that a lot of times you’ll get separation and by the eighth pole the track kind of pitches a little downhill and it’s hard to make up a lot of ground in the last eighth. It’s almost like you’ve got to treat the eighth pole as the wire.”
O’Neill said his colt can deal with a different approach in the Preakness.
“The great thing about I’ll Have Another is that his first step out of the gate is very quick,” O’Neill said. “If Bodemeister is going to get an easy lead, we’ll just push him. Somewhere in midrace, hopefully we can take a little breather. Somewhere around that three-eighths (pole), we’ll have to go after him and hopefully have a good stretch duel and end up on the winning end again.”
O’Neill nodded at a question about whether Bodemeister, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was likely to go off as the favorite in the Preakness.
“The little bit I know of this track, with his style he’ll be there at the eighth pole,”
O’Neill said. “With his brilliant speed and his talent, I could see why people would (make him the betting favorite). And Bob has won five Preaknesses.
“I think we’ll be OK and I think we have a horse that is versatile enough to give ‘Bode’ some heat early, ideally settle a little bit and then go after him again late.”
O’Neill said that he likes what he sees on the “sheets,” which analyze how horses performed in each race and indicate how they may run in their next start.
“I think we’ve got a good pattern going,” O’Neill said. “We ran big off the layoff in the Bob Lewis. “We regressed a little winning the Santa Anita Derby and then we matched our number of the Bob Lewis in the Kentucky Derby. Usually, those horses move forward. Hopefully, the numbers are right here.”
BODEMEISTER – Zayat Stables LLC and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Bodemeister jogged a mile over a fast track under exercise rider George Alvarez with assistant trainer Jim Barnes alongside on a pony Wednesday at Churchill Downs.
Trained by five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert, Bodemeister was scheduled to load on a van at 11 a.m. for the short ride to Louisville International Airport to board a Tex Sutton flight to Baltimore.
The Sutton flight originated in California with a 5:08 a.m. (PDT) departure for Louisville. The plane was scheduled to land in Louisville at 11:37 a.m. (EDT) and then head to Baltimore with a contingent of Churchill Downs runners for Preakness Weekend.
Mike Smith, winner of the 1993 Preakness on Prairie Bayou, has the call on Bodemeister.
COZZETTI – The Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Cozzetti, jogged twice around early Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Romero Cordache.
Trained by Dale Romans, who saddled Shackleford to win last year’s Preakness, Cozzetti was scheduled to fly to Baltimore today.
Jose Lezcano, who has been aboard the son of Cozzene in his past two starts, has the Preakness mount.
DADDY NOSE BEST – Regular rider Julien Leparoux will return to the saddle for Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best in the Preakness.
The Eclipse Award-winning jockey has ridden the Scat Daddy colt in eight consecutive races at six different tracks since July 2011, but opted to stay with Union Rags in the Kentucky Derby. Leparoux has been aboard for all four of Daddy Nose Best’s victories, including the El Camino Real Derby (G3) and the Sunland Park Derby (G3).
Daddy Nose Best, 10th in the Kentucky Derby, walked the shedrow at Barn 38 Wednesday morning and was scheduled to be shipped to Baltimore later in the morning.
Bob Zollars said that he and trainer Steve Asmussen waited a week before deciding to try the colt in the Preakness.
“We just determined that we felt like he had completely bounced back,” Zollars said. “As much as you can make a determination of that, he appears to be ready to go. It’s a short turnaround. I was concerned how well he would bounce back. We’ve done blood work on him and checked him out. He’s very perky, so we think that he’s ready to run again.
Asmussen, who won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin and in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra, will be represented in Friday’s two headliners at Old Hilltop, the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and the Pimlico Special (G3). In the Black-Eyed Susan, Asmussen will send out Glinda the Good for Stonestreet Stables and in the Pimlico Special his runner will be Zayat Stables’ Nehro.
CREATIVE CAUSE – The fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby boarded a plane in Los Angeles at around 5 a.m. Pacific for the journey back East. The son of Giant’s Causeway embarked on his third cross-country venture since last fall, when he went to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The flight made a stopover in Louisville to pick up the Churchill-based Preakness contingent before heading onto Baltimore for a van ride to Pimlico Race Course with an estimated arrival time of 3 p.m.
“He’s a good traveler,” said 71-year-old trainer Mike Harrington, who will be saddling his first Preakness runner for owner Heinz Steinmann.
Creative Cause finished third in the Juvenile after his first trip East in November, only a length behind eventual 2-year-old champion Hansen. His fifth in the Derby included a wide trip that left him three lengths behind winner I’ll Have Another.
Creative Cause defeated I’ll Have Another in last year’s Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar and beat Derby runner-up Bodemeister in the March 10 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. He will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
WENT THE DAY WELL – Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well galloped 1 ½ miles on the Tapeta surface at Fair Hill Training Center Wednesday morning before his scheduled noon departure for Pimlico Race Course.
Trainer Graham Motion had shipped Animal Kingdom to Pimlico on Preakness Day morning before his Kentucky Derby winner closed from far back to finish second behind Shackleford last year. He determined that Went the Day Well would benefit from arriving at Pimlico a few days before the Preakness.
“It’s all about letting him take it all in. He’ll school in the gate and school in the paddock tomorrow,” Motion said. “It’s as much about getting him used to his surroundings as it is about getting him used to the track.”
John Velazquez, who guided Went the Day Well in a fast-closing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, will be aboard the New York-bred son of Proud Citizen again for the Preakness.
TEETH OF THE DOG – J.W. Singer LLC’s Teeth of the Dog galloped 1 3/8 miles at Fair Hill Training Center Wednesday morning.
The son of Bluegrass Cat finished third in his stakes debut in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct last time out.
Joe Bravo has the return mount.
OPTIMIZER – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sat in his traditional corner at the far end of the Preakness Stakes Barn Wednesday morning, looking none the worse for wear after a 12-hour van ride the previous day with Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Optimizer and five other equine passengers from Churchill Downs.
Some 76-year-olds might have slept in after the tiring ordeal, but Lukas was up at 3:30 a.m. and was the first one at the barn – as usual. He sent Optimizer to the track at Pimlico for the first time for a 1 ¼-mile gallop only two days after his final work in Louisville.
“We left right out of the gate at 5 a.m.,” said the five-time Preakness winner. “I go with the horses. If they fly, I go with the horses. If they van, I go with the horses. At this stage of my career, I’m not supposed to have to do that, but I don’t feel very comfortable leaving them there.”
The former quarter horse trainer and high school basketball coach, who made racing history when he won six consecutive Triple Crown races in the mid-90’s, said the vans of today are actually more creature-comfortable for the thoroughbreds because of the easier accessibility to feed and water.
“It’s more hours than a flight, but you’d be surprised how well those horses relax,” he said. “I go with them every step of the way. I call all the shots.”
He’s been calling the shots for more than 30 years in thoroughbred racing, winning 13 Triple Crown races along the way. He last won a Preakness in 1999 with Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic. He has a long shot with Optimizer, but Lukas is hoping the son of English Channel can be a factor on Saturday.
Optimizer is looking for his first victory since his maiden score on grass at Saratoga last summer. He finished 11th in traffic in the Kentucky Derby under Jon Court, but will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Preakness for the first time.
TIGER WALK – Sagamore Farm’s Tiger Walk galloped 1 3/8 miles at Kevin Plank’s historic farm in Glyndon, Md.
The son of Tale of the Cat broke through with his first career victory in his third start, capturing a mile turf race by five lengths at Laurel on Nov. 3. About six weeks later, Tiger Walk came right back to capture a mile allowance race on dirt at Laurel.
“The turf course wasn’t closed yet, but we decided to take a shot on the dirt because we were going to stay here for the winter, when there’s no turf racing,” trainer Ignacio Correas said.”I think he can run on both, but I don’t think he likes a ‘good’ track. He likes it fast.
After his maiden victory, Tiger Walk raced in three graded stakes at Aqueduct. After an encouraging third in the Withers (G3), he finished a distant fourth from the No. 13 post over a wet track in the Gotham (G3).
“He didn’t like the track, but we knew he wouldn’t have a good trip because of that post position,” Correas said. “We decided to run because the horse needed the experience at that point and he ran a pretty good race.”
Tiger Walk, who closed to finish fourth in the Wood Memorial (G1), will wear blinkers Saturday.
Kent Desormeaux is set to ride Tiger Walk for the first time in the Preakness, which he has won aboard Real Quiet (1998) and Big Brown (2008).
ZETTERHOLM – Trainer Richard Dutrow said the New York-bred colt is doing well entering his first try in graded-stakes company. The son of Silver Train has won three in a row against New York-bred competition. He galloped two times around Pimlico under exercise rider Mario Madrid on Wednesday morning.
“Our horse is doing good,” Dutrow said by phone from New York. “I think he likes things and I hope he runs big. Right now, he’s training like he will, so we’re happy with things.”
Although Zetterholm is a late-running horse, Dutrow said he wasn’t happy to see speedy Bodemeister in the Preakness, even though he probably will assure a sharp early pace that could benefit a closer.
“I would prefer that they would scratch, that’s for sure,” Dutrow said. “To me, he looks like the horse to beat. It’s going to make it awful tough on us if he runs big, and it certainly looks like he will.
“I’m just hoping that our colt runs big and shows up the right way. I’m under the impression that he will. We’re certainly hoping that he will. It’s a really tough spot for him. He hasn’t run against horses like this and he has to ship out of town to do it. It’s not a party, so that’s why we’re looking for our horse to run big and we’re looking to go forward with him. He’s doing good; we’re happy with him. It’s a big race for him. If he shows up, we’re going to be very, very happy.”
Jockey Junior Alvarado will make his Preakness debut aboard the Winter Park Partners colt.
PRETENSION – Kidwells Petite Stable’s Pretension galloped 1 ½ miles at Bowie Training Center Wednesday, the morning after trainer Chris Grove confirmed the son of Bluegrass Cat for a Preakness start.
“He galloped right along. He galloped a strong mile and a half,” Grove said.
The son of Bluegrass Cat was purchased out of the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ March sale for $75,000.
“I really liked the pedigree and he looked like a racehorse to me,” Grove said. “I saw the tape (of his breeze) and he had no wasted motion. Everything was forward and clean.”
Javier Santiago has the return mount.
GUYANA STAR DWEEJ – Shivmangal Racing Stable’s son of Eddington was declared from the Preakness after a left front leg injury failed to improve sufficiently, trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal reported from Belmont Park Wednesday morning.
“We looked at the horse where he had grabbed his quarter a little bit galloping, and it was still not properly healed,” Shivmangal said. “We didn’t get any kind of work into him because of the track being bad the last week, so we decided we’re going to have to skip this one.”
Guyana Star Dweej would have been Shivmangal’s second consecutive starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Isn’t He Perfect finished ninth in last year’s race.
“This is really rough for me,” Shivmangal said. “We’re more than disappointed.”
PIMLICO SPECIAL NOTE-Trainer Al Stall, Jr. scratched Cease from Friday’s $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), reducing the field to nine runners. With the defection, Pimlico handicapper Frank Carulli adjusted the original morning lines of Alternation, who went from 9-2 to 4-1 and Cherokee Artist (20-1 to 15-1).
Alternation, Yawanna Twist(21-1) and Eighttofasttocatch (20-1) trained at Pimlico Race Course this morning.