Old Hill Top, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, was done up in its "Sunday Best" on the third Saturday in May for the Preakness, the second leg of the coveted Triple Crown. Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another ran down his rival Bodemeister in deep stretch just as he did two weeks ago at Churchill Downs. With the victory, I'll Have Another is a Belmont Stakes win away from becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner in American thoroughbred history and the first since 1978.
Somewhat similar to the Derby, Bodemeister broke well and set the pace in the early stages. Unlike the Derby, Bode was able to run much more sensible fractions and looked like a certain winner when he charged off the top of the stretch with a three length lead. I'll Have Another, sitting a few lengths back in fourth position for much of the early parts of the race, was sent down for a drive by jockey Mario Gutierrez as he came off the far turn. With the roar of the Pimlico crown behind him, I'll Have Another wore down his rival in the final strides to win the Preakness, keeping the Triple Crown dream alive for 2012.
As expected, the pace of the Preakness was a lot more sensible than the insane splits we saw at the Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister clocked very even times over the first mile of the race and he finished up strong, despite doing all the dirty work on the front-end. But I'll Have Another was just as game as Bodemeister and he would not be denied in the final hundred yards as he ate up ground with every massive stride.
Below is a summary of the fractions and internal splits from the Preakness, along with a horse-by-horse breakdown of the top four finishers.
1st - I'll Have Another: This colt just loves to win races; what more can be written about him? The Derby winner was able to secure a great stalking position for the first half mile and then made a strong run in the lane to run down the game Bodemeister on the wire once again.
The strength of I'll Have Another is his ability to sit several lengths off of the lead and yet still run a top race time and time again. On paper, the Preakness did not set-up well for a horse with his running style given the absence of speed horses. That gave Bodemeister a decided tactical advantage yet, despite the unfavorable pace, I'll Have Another was able to run down a high quality colt in Bodemeister in the final strides.
If people thought the Derby was a fluke, they should now be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'll Have Another is high quality colt on the doorstep of history.
Can I'll Have Another win the Belmont? Well, no horse has won all three since 1978 when Affirmed edged his rival Alydar three straight times in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont. But while history suggests that I'll Have Another won't win in New York, it's hard to root against a colt that just loves to win races.
I'll Have Another has a shot at history in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. If he's good enough and can run his race, he could place his name among the all-time greats of thoroughbred history.
2nd - Bodemeister: The Bob Baffert trainee, and the betting favorite in the Preakness, ran his race just like all the handicappers predicted: he broke strong and led the field through moderate fractions over the first mile. While his connections are most certainly disappointed by coming up short in both the Derby and Preakness, there's no denying the talent of this colt. He may not have a shot at a Triple Crown, but I have a feeling Bode will make his name known over the rest of this racing sea on.
3rd - Creative Cause: Unlike his Derby run, Creative Cause got the perfect trip in the Preakness and had every chance to stake his claim to the win at the top of the stretch. Ultimately, he's just wasn't good enough to run down Bodemeister or I'll Have Another. A good race by Creative Cause, but just not enough to challenge the top two.
4th - Zetterholm: The New York shipper ran the best of all the new shooters at this year's Preakness but he finished over ten lengths behind Bode and I'll Have Another and never challenged the top pair at any time during the race. As most handicappers expected prior to the race, the new shooters were never a serious threat to win the Preakness at any point in the race.
It's on to Belmont where, once again, a colt will try to end the Triple Crown drought in the mile and half Belmont Stakes - "The Test of Champions".. If you're a horse racing fan, the next three weeks will be excruciatingly long.