In what played out like an instant replay of the Kentucky Derby, jockey Mario Gutierrez and the Flower Alley colt I'll Have Another caught Mike Smith and the front-running Bodemeister in the shadow of the finish line to win the 137th edition of the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico race course in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday. The winning margin was a neck, with Creative Cause another 8 ¾ lengths back in third, giving California-based horses a sweep of the top three positions.
Time of the race on a fast track was 1:55.94 for the 1 3/16 miles.
Complete order of finish was: I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Zetterholme, Teeth of the Dog, Optimizer, Cozzetti, Tiger Walk, Daddy Nose Best, Went the Day Well, Pretension.
I'll Have Another, owned by Reddam Racing and trained by Doug O'Neill now takes aim on the June 9 Belmont Stakes and will attempt to become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown winner. He beat Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths. Dullahan, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, didn't participate in the Preakness but is being pointed for the Belmont, along with Alpha (12th Kentucky Derby), recent Peter Pan Stakes winner Mark Valeski, and Union Rags (a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby), among others.
“I'm just numb,” said Doug O'Neill. “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.”
Bodemeister, the 8-5 favorite, went right to the front as expected, just as he did in the Kentucky Derby, setting fractions that were considerably slower than those at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier. He went :23.79 for he opening quarter mile, :47.68 for the half and 1:11.72 for six furlongs.
Creative Cause was in closest pursuit in the run down the backstretch, with I'll Have Another just behind him, alongside longshot Pretension. When Bodemeister hit the final turn, jockey Joel Rosario made his move aboard Creative Cause, putting some pressure on the front-runner, but Bodemeister stretched his lead out to three lengths at the furlong pole (the same margin he held at the stretch call of the Derby).
Gutierrez, meanwhile, saved some ground on the turn, then swung three wide into the stretch. Gutierrez went to work with a ride-handed whip, and I'll Have Another gradually cut into Bodemeister's lead. Bodemeister fought back under left-handed pressure from Smith, but I'll Have Another had the momentum, snatching the victory from Bodemeister and denying trainer Bob Baffert his sixth victory in the Triple Crown's middle jewel.
Final time of 1:55.94 (after a mile split of 1:36.69) was quicker than Shackleford's win last year but well off the fastest Preakness time of 1:53.46 set by Curlin in 2007.
“He looked like he was traveling nicely down the backside and coming to the three-eighths pole, he just sat on him,” Baffert said of Smith and Bodemeister. “The fractions were more reasonable today (Bodemeister went :23.32, :45.39, and 1:09.80 for the first six furlongs of the Derby), 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,” said Baffert. He'll get the respect now he deserves.”
“I thought I put him away but he (I'll Have Another) reached up and got us with three strides,” said Mike Smith. “Two great horses and I give them all the credit for what they did.”
Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause, had no complaints about the way jockey Joel Rosario went after Bodemeister early. “What can you do?” said Harrington. “You've got to try to win the race. I have no regrets. He probably won it for I'll Have Another.”
I'll Have Another, bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, is out of the Arch mare Arch's Gal Edith. He was initially sold for $11,000 from the Seitz family's Brookdale Farm consignment at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, then pinhooked by Barry Eisaman's Eisaman Equine at the 2011 OBS Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training, where Dennis O'Neill, brother of the trainer, picked him out for $35,000.
Now a winner of five of seven lifetime starts and all four of his 2012 races, I'll Have Another paid $8.40 on a $2 mutuel as the 3-1 second choice. “He doesn't have the most respect and he's never been favored,” said owner Paul Reddam, who is experiencing his first success in the Triple Crown.
Gutierrez, a 25-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, who won his first career Grade 1 race while aboard I'll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby in April, gave a flawless ride in the Preakness, just as he did in the Kentucky Derby, when breaking from the 19 post position. “It's not me, it's him,” Gutierrez said of the Derby-Preakness winner. “He has a tremendous kick in the end.”
“When I saw 23 and change I kind of liked where we were,” O'Neill said. “Mario felt super confident in this horse and his ability to get the best run out of him. He just rode him the way it unfolded. He kept him in the clear, and when he called on him he really finished.”
O'Neill said he was confident after seeing how I'll Have Another exited the Kentucky Derby. “His appetite has been unbelieavable,” the trainer said. “His energy level has been high. His stride over this track, he had a couple days at Churchill where he didn't go over the track as good as some other days. But here he just really handled the track great every day. He just really thrived from the Derby.”
The day before the Preakness, at the suggestion of Reddam, Doug O'Neill and Gutierrez watched numerous replays of past Preaknesses, trying to get an idea of how the race has been won in the past. “Mario and I took away from that that Pimlico's very fair,” said Doug O'Neill.
Dennis O'Neill said they may do one better when it comes to the Belmont Stakes, run at the distance of a mile and one-half on the enormous Belmont Park oval. At the invitation of retired jockey Richard Migliore, who now does television work for the New York Racing Association and HRTV, Gutierrez and Migliore will walk around the surface on which the Belmont will be run. “You can get lost out there it's such a big track,” said Dennis O'Neill.
Gutierrez, who for five years has been based at Hastings Park in Vancouver, Canada, said it “will be a first for him” to go to New York Belmont Park. “It's not the first time I'm going to race a long race,” he added. “In Vancouver we have marathon races where they're just running around the track like five times. It's pretty long.”
I'll Have Another will be the 12th 3-year-old to go after a Triple Crown sweep since Affirmed last accomplished the feat in 1978, becaming the third Triple Crown winner of the 1970s, joining Secretariat in 1973 and Seattle Slew in 1977. Since then, the near-misses included Spectacular Bid (1979), Pleasant Colony (1981), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004), and Big Brown (2008).
“It's one of those things where it's good for the sport,” said Baffert, who brought Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem to the Belmont in hopes of a Triple Crown sweep. “It's good for the Belmont.”
The possiibility of a Triple Crown win by I'll Have Another will also put a brighter spotlight on trainer Doug O'Neill, who has been the subject of a number of newspaper and online articles scrutinizing his list of medication violations and racing fatalities throughout his career. The focus on O'Neill comes at a time when the New York Times has published a series of critical investigative articles on horse racing and a Congressional hearing conducted a hearing into the use of medication in racehorses and its effect on safety of horses and riders. Legislation introduced a year ago by Kentucky Rep. Ed Whitfield and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall would impose a federal ban on all medication in racehorses along with far stricter penalties on rule violators than currently exist.
Asked if he had any apprehension about answering questions about his record, O'Neill said, “Not at all. We play by the rules. It's all about the horse.”
O'Neill, who came to Baltimore early and was a great asset to the Maryland Jockey Club in promoting the Preakness, said he's enjoying the ride.
“The great thing about having a horse like I'll Have Another, it opens up a lot of doors. You get to meet so many people hwo love horses and they love horse racing. Along the way if we can share a little bit of the backstage fun of it, and the excitement and the beauty of it, I would like to do that. I would love the opportunity to do cool things in New York if we can.”
Aided by an InfieldFest concert featuring the likes of Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa, Pimlico officials said the 137th Preakness attracted a record crowd of 121,309 and wagering of more than $80 million was the sixth highest in the race's history.
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