BALTIMORE , 05-18-12 -- On a clear, crisp Maryland morning, Kentucky Derby (G1) winner I’ll Have Another made an early appearance on the main track at Pimlico, jogging a half-mile and then galloping seven furlongs under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
As I’ll Have Another headed back to the barn area a little after 6:30, trainer Doug O’Neill gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to horse and rider.
“Proud, so proud,” said O’Neill, who will have a Preakness starter for the first time Saturday.
Owned by Reddam Racing LLC, I’ll Have Another arrived in the O’Neill barn at Hollywood Park in April 2011 after being purchased for $35,000 at Ocala where he was picked out by the Derby-winning trainer’s brother, Dennis O’Neill.
“Did you think you had a Kentucky Derby winner in your grasp at purchase time?” Dennis was asked.
“Absolutely not. For the horses I buy, I hope they can win for maiden $40,000 or $50,000,” he said. “The first time he breezed, I asked Doug if he thought he could win a maiden 40 or 50 and he said he was more like Stevie Wonderboy (the 2005 juvenile champion trained by O’Neill).”
Doug O’Neill was high on the colt early on.
“We always thought highly of him and he has that long stride,” the trainer said, noting that Kentucky Derby dreams began to really grow after I’ll Have Another’s victory in the 1 1/16-mile Robert B. Lewis (G2). “To win going two turns after a five-month layoff, I thought that maybe he may be one for the classics.”
With one classic in his pocket, the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown awaits Saturday, when I’ll Have Another may go to the track in the morning during the 5:30-6 o’clock session reserved for Preakness horses.
“Usually, I gallop my horses the morning of a race back home,” the Southern California-based O’Neill said. “I’ll see what his energy level is in the morning and I may jog him.”
The weekend got off to a banner start Thursday when the O’Neill barn sent out Ten Plush to a three-quarter length victory in her first career start for Reddam Racing.
“That was great. She’s a nice filly,” O’Neill said of Ten Plush, who represented his first starter at Pimlico.
Ten Plush is a Florida-bred filly out of a mare by 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet. She was ridden by I’ll Have Another’s jockey, Mario Gutierrez, who earlier in the card had won on his first Pimlico mount, My Name Is Ralphie, in the second.
Gutierrez is undefeated in three starts on I’ll Have Another and those three victories have accounted for $2,093,600, a total that exceeds Gutierrez’s previous best year in 2007 when his 624 mounts accounted for $2,060,769 in earnings.
To date, Gutierrez’s mounts in 2012 have earned $2,668,352 from 148 races.
BODEMEISTER – After Zayat Stables and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s Empire Maker colt came back from his gallop on the track at Pimlico Friday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert deemed him ready for the 137th Preakness on Saturday.
“The horse looks good. He’s trained well,” Baffert said. “It’s just waiting now.”
Bodemeister set a scorching pace in the Kentucky Derby and managed to hold on to finish second to I’ll Have Another. The two California-based colts meet again in the Preakness – with Bodemeister the 8-5 favorite in the morning line – and the question to be answered in the race is how the race will unfold. Will I’ll Have Another press the pace? Will Bodemeister try to run the competition into the ground in a race that is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby?
“On paper, it looks like he’s going to be the speed,” Baffert said. “He has to break well. He has a high cruising speed and hopefully he doesn’t go as fast as he did in the Derby.”
At Churchill Downs in the Derby, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and Bodemeister covered the first quarter in :22.32 and the half-mile in :45.39. Smith is back aboard for the Preakness, but he doesn’t have to deal with speedsters such as Hansen and Trinniberg in the Preakness.
“I think he learned a lot from the horse the last time,” Baffert said. “He’s a horse that if you push the button he’s going to be gone. The pace is the whole key here. I’ve been at the Preakness and there is always some longshot that decides they want to go. I can’t worry about that. If Bodemeister just runs his race then he’ll be effective. That’s the whole key.”
The unknown factor is how the Derby horses will perform on two week’s rest.
“If the gate comes open and they feel like running, they run,” Baffert said. “If they don’t feel like it, they don’t run.”
Baffert mentioned Pioneerof the Nile, the Derby runner-up in 2009.
“I thought he would run huge and he never ran a jump,” Baffert said. “They’re doing great, but you’re still waiting for that gate to come open to see what they’re going to do.
“All I can do is get them ready, lead them up there and put the saddle on them. The horse has to do the rest and the jockey has to keep him out of trouble. That’s Mike’s job: keep him out of trouble and ride the race he thinks is right to him. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a big arena we’re playing in.”
With his remarkable speed, Bodemeister has been first or second in each of his five career starts.
“Bode,’ I can’t change his style too much,” Baffert said. “He’s a lightly raced horse. Hopefully, he doesn’t go too fast. If they go with him, it’s actually good, because if they chase him it’s a good thing. We’ll see what happens.”
Baffert has won the Preakness five times from 12 starters since making his debut with Cavonnier (4th) in 1996. His quintet is composed of Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), as well as Point Given in 2001 and Lookin at Lucky in 2010.
“My secret is that those horses were very, very good horses,” he said. “They were the best horses and that’s why they won. Three of them won the Kentucky Derby and two of them didn’t run well in the Derby, but they bounced back really well.
“The cream always rises to the top. The Kentucky Derby winner is a very good horse and he’s going to be tough to beat.”
CREATIVE CAUSE – Heinz Steinmann’s three-time stakes winner, Creative Cause, returned to the track at Pimlico Race Course a little after 8 Friday morning, jogging a mile and galloping a mile under exercise rider John Cisneros before making a visit to the starting gate.
Trainer Mike Harrington, who turned 71 in April, schooled the son of Giant’s Causeway in the paddock on Thursday and said he will saddle him there on race day rather than in the traditional Preakness location on the turf course.
“He’s getting more mature with every race he runs,” Harrington said. “He’s doing well. He’s holding up good. I was talking to somebody this morning and I said it will be interesting to see how many of these are still standing after the Belmont.”
Harrington has been taking full advantage of his first trip to the Preakness and said he felt right at home at the country-western barbeque sponsored by the Maryland Jockey Club Thursday night at the Port Discovery Atrium in downtown Baltimore.
“It was nice of them to throw a party just for me,” said Harrington, who is rarely seen without one of his designer cowboy hats. “That was pretty nice.”
That Harrington returned East for the Preakness after taking the fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher back to California was a surprise to some, but he said the decision wasn’t all that difficult.
“I don’t know where people get these ideas that you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that,” he said. “I mean, Doug (O’Neill) brought his horse here right after the Derby and that hadn’t been done before. Who sets the rules what you’ve got to do?”
As for the race itself, Harrington said most people have a set script in mind and rarely does a big race play out that way on the track.
“Everybody has the same scenario,” he said. “Bodemeister’s going to the front; I’ll Have Another is going to be following him. Hopefully, I won’t be more than five lengths off them. But in reality, the race probably isn’t going to come out the way everybody thinks it’s going to. I don’t know what’s going to change it; I just feel it may not come out that way.”
Joel Rosario will have the return mount aboard Creative Cause Saturday.
WENT THE DAY WELL – Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Zeke Castro at Pimlico Race Course Friday morning.
Castro has noticed a sharp increase in focus from the son of Proud Citizen since his victory in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park, which was followed by an unlucky, fast-closing fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“After the Turfway race, he’s figured out he can do more and more,” the native of Argentina said. “The improved focus can be attributed to the addition of blinkers following an impressive, but green performance in the Spiral. It became clear that Went the Day Will would benefit from the new equipment. I breezed him one day at Keeneland, and, oh, my God, I thought I was going to get fired. I knew I had a lot of horse, but he didn’t want to go when I asked him. He just wanted to play with his company. He didn’t mind if he was going slower or faster, he just didn’t want to go by his company,” Castro said.
After jockey John Velazquez subsequently breezed Went the Day Well at Keeneland, trainer Graham Motion made the decision to add blinkers for the Derby.
Castro has been working for Motion for more than a year, but their association goes back five years.
“He’s the one who signed my visa to come from Argentina,” said Castro, whose brother, Gabriel, was working for Motion at the time.
Castro only worked for Motion as a groom and hotwalker for a short time.
“I wanted to ride. I knew that the horses (at Motion’s Fair Hill Training Center stable), I wouldn’t be allowed to start riding, because in Argentina we ride with no saddle. I had to start over,” Castro said. “So, I started breaking babies (in Brooksfield, Fla.). One of the babies I broke is running in (Saturday’s President of UAE Cup Series race at Pimlico), Grilla.”
Castro went on to work for trainer Steve Margolis in Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana for three years before returning to Fair Hill Training Center to work for Motion.
DADDY KNOWS BEST – Bob and Cathy Zollars’ colt galloped and schooled in the gate in the bright sunshine Friday morning at Pimlico.
“He feels great,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s enjoying the weather.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux will be back aboard Daddy Knows Best in the Preakness. Leparoux, who opted to ride Union Rags in the Kentucky Derby, has been on the Scat Daddy colt for eight of his 11 starts and all four of his victories.
“I’m excited that Julien is back on him because of how familiar he is with him,” Blasi said. “I’m glad to have him back on.”
Daddy Knows Best, purchased for $35,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September sale, has made the most starts of the Preakness runners.
TEETH OF THE DOG – J.W. Singer LLC’s Teeth of the Dog galloped a mile at Fair Hill Training Center Friday morning.
“He’ll ship to Pimlico this evening,” said trainer Michael Matz, whose colt finished third in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct on April 7. “He’ll gallop tomorrow morning.”
Joe Bravo will ride Teeth of the Dog.
ZETTERHOLM – Breeder and co-owner Anthony Grey was at Pimlico Friday morning to watch his New York-bred colt gallop under Mario Madrid.
Assistant trainer Blake Dutrow has been handling Zetterholm for his uncle, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., since he shipped to Pimlico on Saturday. Rick Dutrow is expected to saddle the colt for the Preakness.
Many of the foals from Zetterholm’s dam, the Lord at War mare Holy Wish, have names connected to their breeding, but not this colt.
“It’s a friend of mine’s last name,” Grey said. “Amanda Zetterholm is an amateur jockey in Europe. She had helped me try to name some horses. Two or three of them weren’t accepted for whatever reason and I said, ‘I’ll just name one after you then.’”
Holy Wish has been a very good producer for Grey, dropping the likes of stakes winners Wishful Tomcat and Uncle T Seven. Some of Zetterholm’s half-brothers emerged as 2-year-olds, but Zetterholm is a late foal, born on April 26, so he was given more time to develop. He made one start in Florida in late November for trainer Steve DiMauro, who has been a friend of Grey’s since they were in high school on Long Island.
“Because he’s a New York-bred, I turned him over to Rick,” Grey said. “When I bred the horse, I knew that Rick had trained Silver Train. The A.P. Indy cross works good with Lord at War mares, so I figured I’d take a shot with Silver Train. Who better to train a Silver Train than the guy who trained the dad?”
Zetterholm finished second in his first start for Dutrow in January and has put together a three-race winning streak. In his most recent start, he won the restricted Patsyprospect Stakes for New York-breds on April 6 at Aqueduct.
“We’ve been conservative with him up to now,” Grey said. “We were debating about whether to go in the Wood or not. When they put the New York-bred overnight stake up the day before, we figured that black type doesn‘t hurt the family any and said, ‘let’s go get that.’”
COZZETTI – Trainer Dale Romans, who saddled Shackleford for a victory in last year’s Preakness Stakes, made his first appearance at Pimlico this week at about 8 a.m. Friday.
“He looked super training today,” Romans said after watching the gray colt jog a mile and gallop a mile under exercise rider Mary Doser. “It’s an uphill battle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran big.”
Albaugh Family Stables’ son of grass champion Cozzene was in a three-horse photo for second while finishing fourth behind runaway winner Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He showed his readiness with a brilliant five-furlong work in :58.80 Monday at Churchill Downs.
“It looks like he should be strictly a grass horse, but he’s sure running well on the dirt – better than on the grass,” said Romans, who finished second in the 2010 Preakness with First Dude. “He’s coming around at the right time. I don’t know if he’s good enough to win, but he’s going to run a big race. They (the top contenders) better not stub their toes.”
Romans, who stopped to give a fan his hat after posing for a photo near the track apron, said it’s been fun returning to Pimlico this year after winning his first Triple Crown event last year.
“The Preakness is always fun to come to, but it’s pretty nice to pull in here and see the big poster of Shackleford,” he said with a broad smile. “We know we’re only the reigning Preakness champion for 24 or 30 more hours, but it was really fun pulling in here today.”
Jose Lezcano, who has been aboard Cozzetti’s last two starts, is set to ride in his first Preakness.
TIGER WALK – Trainer Ignacio Correas sent the son of Tale of the Cat out for a 1 3/8-mile gallop at Sagamore Farm in nearby Glyndon Friday morning. He is scheduled to bring his colt in by van Saturday morning for Preakness 137.
“We plan to load around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning,” said Correas, who will be saddling his first Preakness runner. “It’s only a 20-minute ride.”
Sagamore Farm owner Kevin Plank, who made his fortune with former Maryland football teammate Jordan Lundgren in the Under Armor Corporation, has enlisted the services of ex-Maryland jockey champion Kent Desormeaux for this race. Desormeaux will be the sixth rider in Tiger Walk’s eight career starts.
“We’re very happy to have him,” Correas said. “We were waiting on him because we didn’t know if he was coming or not.”
Desormeaux won the Preakness in 2008 with Big Brown, 10 years after taking the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown with Real Quiet.
“He’s never been on the horse, but he’s an easy horse to ride,” Correas said.
What may not be so easy is breaking from the inside post position, which has produced only two winners since 1960.
Tiger Walk hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in an eight-horse field in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct Race Track April 7.
OPTIMIZER – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Optimizer to the track early Friday morning for a long gallop over the main track at Pimlico Race Course and pronounced his horse “as ready as we can be.”
“Everything today was great,” Lukas said as he prepared his 37th Preakness runner since the early 1980s. “We’ve got to have some luck on the trip. I don’t know if I feel good about the karma with this one, but I love the way we drew (post 10). I don’t know that we can win it, but I think we may get a piece of it.”
Lukas has had enough experience here to recognize the logical contenders and he’s concerned that Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister could steal the race.
“In the Derby we thought Trinniberg was just going to go and he never even got up in front,” said the five-time Preakness-winning trainer. “I think if Bodemeister gets loose on the lead, he’s very dangerous because I think he gets bolder and bolder. I thought he ran a hell of a race in the Derby to hang around like he did in those fractions.”
Lukas also believes trainer Bob Baffert’s familiarity with this race will help his horse’s chances.
“I think the experience of being here and doing this … it’s no accident to win five as Bob and I have. I think that factors into it,” Lukas said. “I think when (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick goes into the Super Bowl, there’s something to be said for ‘been there and done that.’”
And while he respects the Derby winner, he needs more convincing in terms of Triple Crown possibilities.
“We’re going to give him every credit in the world – beautiful race, strong powerful race in the end,” Lukas said. “If he does it here, we’ll go to New York and say, ‘let’s see if he can do it again.’ We’re not going to bronze him and put him in the infield off one race, are we? I want to see it again. This horse’s pedigree (Flower Alley) is really questionable.”
PRETENSION – Kidwells Petite Stable’s Pretension jogged a mile at Bowie Training Center Friday morning.
Trainer Chris Grove will van the Canonero II Stakes winner to Pimlico Saturday morning.
Javier Santiago will have the return mount aboard the son of Bluegrass Cat.