BALTIMORE (AP) — Just like in the Kentucky Derby, Bodemeister is the favorite in the Preakness.
This time, Bob Baffert intends to justify the odds.
Despite finishing second in the Derby, Bodemeister was installed as the 8-5 favorite for Saturday’s second leg of the Triple Crown. The colt, trained by Bob Baffert, set the pace at Churchill Downs before being overtaken in the stretch by I’ll Have Another, who won by 1½ lengths.
I’ll Have Another is the second-favorite in the Preakness at 5-2.
Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner, was delighted to receive the No. 7 post in the 11-horse field.
“With (Bodemeister), anything in the middle would be fine,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “With the Preakness, you just don’t want to be stuck on the inside where you have to use your horse a little bit. The Derby winner drew really well, also.”
I’ll Have Another will start from the No. 9 post. The colt won the Derby out of the No. 19 post and will again be ridden by Mario Gutierrez.
“Anything with a nine in it, we feel very good about. We’re cool with it,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We talked about the possibility of being inside Bodemeister and really forcing our hand to push him early. Now it’s in Mario’s hands to still kind of push Bode, but we’ll be on the outside of him.”
Funny Cide was last to win from No. 9 in 2003, and Baffert’s Lookin At Lucky was last to win from No. 7 in 2010.
Asked about having the second-favorite in the field despite winning the Derby, O’Neill said, “Bob Baffert has won five of these. I’ve never run a horse here. I totally respect that. I just hope anyone who bets Bodemeister is regretting it Saturday night.”
A victory would give I’ll Have Another the chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“I’m confident,” O’Neill said. “You never know. But as long as we continue to train like our horse is training, we won’t be that far off Bodemeister. If anything Bodemeister might be behind us early.”
The odds were set by Pimlico Race Course handicapper Frank Carulli. The field is the smallest since 2007, when Curlin beat Derby winner Street Sense in a nine-horse field.
Also entered are Tiger Walk (30-1), Teeth of the Dog (15-1), Pretension (30-1), Zetterholm (20-1), Went the Day Well (6-1), Creative Cause (6-1), Daddy Nose Best (12-1), Optimizer (30-1) and Cozzetti (30-1).
Creative Cause trainer Mike Harrington, whose horse finished fifth in the Derby, was delighted with the No. 6 post.
“I don’t think it affects our running style,” Harrington said. “With 11 in there, post position is not nearly as important as the Derby. The middle is great. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has a long shot with Optimizer, but spoke optimistically after getting the No. 10 post.
“I love it. I love the horses inside of me,” Lukas said. “I love the whole thing. If they gave me a pick, I would have picked that one. It turned out great. Every time they drew another one, it looked better.”
Went the Day Well owner Barry Irwin was delighted to see the fourth-place finisher in the Derby get the No. 5 post in the Preakness.
“I like the draw. The middle’s good,” Irwin said. “I didn’t want to be on the outside because the horse is green and I think he has a tendency to veer off to the right. Being on the rail, being a horse that doesn’t have that much experience, I think it would’ve been a little too claustrophobic for him down there.”
Derby winner rests
BALTIMORE (AP) — Four days before the Preakness, I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill was feeling very skittish about his pending appearance on the grand stage.
His nervousness had nothing to do with saddling up the Kentucky Derby winner Saturday with the Triple Crown hanging in the balance. O’Neill didn’t care that it was too wet to send I’ll Have Another out on the track, and he certainly wasn’t uneasy about the Preakness coming down to another duel between his horse and Derby pace-setter Bodemeister.
No, the usually laid-back O’Neill was fretting over his assignment Tuesday night at Camden Yards: Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in my hotel room throwing shampoo bottles at pillows,” he said Tuesday morning. “My biggest thing is not bouncing it. The more people say don’t bounce it, the more likely you will bounce it. I’m just trying to stay focused on throwing it straight and strong and not embarrassing the I’ll Have Another team.”
He did a fine job. Standing in front of the mound, O’Neill peered for an imaginary sign from Orioles infielder Ryan Flaherty, who was poised behind the plate. O’Neill then went into an exaggerated windup and unleashed a high pitch that Flaherty snagged after leaping from his crouch.
O’Neill broke a trend by shipping the his horse to Pimlico Race Course just two days after the Derby, and he arrived in town two days after that. Since then, he’s been preparing I’ll Have Another for the Preakness and doing all things Baltimore.
O’Neill watched the Baltimore Ravens rookies practice last weekend and had lunch with coach John Harbaugh. On Monday night, he tried crabs for the first time.
“It’s a lot of work with a mallet. I felt like a carpenter,” O’Neill said. “It was good. We experienced the common food of Baltimore. I think next time I’ll look for the crab cakes. That’s the lazy man’s way of eating crab. Pulling the legs and cracking this and that, it does seem like too much work.”
On the topic of work, O’Neill decided I’ll Have Another didn’t have to do any Tuesday on a wet, dreary morning at Pimlico.
“With I’ll Have Another being as fit as he is and the fact he’s doing so good, we figured the weather forecast is supposed to be nice starting tomorrow, so why take him out there?” O’Neill said. “Like the rest of us, we all like a day off. We gave the whole barn a day off. He looks fantastic.
“You would expect good energy, which he has. We needed a lip chain to keep him on the ground. He was prancing around there. He’s happy. We’ll probably walk him a couple of more times throughout the day. He’ll probably be a little stir crazy without going to the track. I just thought it was the safest, smartest move.”
Since rallying past Bodemeister in the Derby, I’ll Have Another has showed absolutely no sign of fatigue. If the rousing run to the finish took anything out of him, it sure didn’t show in his appetite.
“Every morning we find a clean, licked-up feed tub,” O’Neill said. “He’s a really mellow horse in the stall. He’s a horse that every morning looks like he had a good night’s sleep.”
Many of the horses that ran in the Derby, including Union Rags and Hansen, have opted out of the Preakness. O’Neill, on the other hand, threw I’ll Have Another into the Preakness mix at the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.
“You need a special horse to do it,” he said in front of Barn D at Pimlico, the temporary home of I’ll Have Another. “I could see where those guys probably want a little more time to recover. Fortunately, I’ll Have Another has recovered super quickly. It’s still going to be a tough race with Bodemeister and Graham Motion’s horse (Went The Day Well).”
Win or lose, O’Neill won’t soon forget this magical two-week stay in Baltimore — even if he does bounce that first-pitch fastball at Camden Yards.
“The fact we get paid to do something we all love is incredible,” he said. “As friends and family come visit the barn, you can see how they just love the whole environment. We’re enjoying every minute of it. Who knows if we’ll ever be back again with a Derby winner? Hopefully we will be. We are just soaking it all in. We’re so blessed to have a brilliant horse like him.”