Preakness Favorite Bodemeister Gets Favorable Draw
By Jason Butt
Up until the last leg of the Kentucky Derby, Bodemeister held what seemed to be a comfortable, three-lengths lead. But that's when I'll Have Another turned his jets on and made a late surge to give jockey Mario Gutierrez his first winning ride.
Bodemeister finished second at the Derby. But he was rewarded by Pimlico Race Course handicapper Frank Carulli with an 8-5 morning line for the 137th Preakness Stakes. Bodemeister also received a favorable starting point at the No. 7 post.
"I think it's a good post," Bodemeister's trainer Bob Baffert said. "With him, anything in the middle would have been fine. In the Preakness, you just don't want to be stuck down on the inside, where you have to use your horse a little bit."
Jockey Mike Smith was able to set the pace with Bodemeister at the Kentucky Derby, jumping out to a clear lead. But Gutierrez rode I'll Have Another stayed within striking distance, which ultimately led to the horse's win. I'll Have Another was given a second-best 5-2 morning line, despite the win at the Kentucky Derby. I'll Have Another's trainer, Doug O'Neill, wasn't taken aback by the oddsmaker's slight, though he has a case that his horse has proved to be worthy of a favorite.
"Bob Baffert has won five of these," O'Neill said. "I've never run a horse here. I totally respect that. I'm just hoping that anyone who bets Bodemeister is regretting it Saturday night."
For Derby winner I'll Have Another, who will start at the No. 9 post, and his training staff, it's been a whirlwind ride since the May 5 victory. The colt arrived in Baltimore for the Preakness to train on the Pimlico track just two days following the Derby. O'Neill caught a flight to tend to his stable in California before catching a red-eye flight May 10 to see his horse train on the East Coast.
The Derby win gave O'Neill the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a recent Orioles game. He and members of his staff received an invitation to attend Baltimore Ravens rookie minicamp May 13. O'Neill grew up a Detroit Lions fan, but conceded his top affection for the Ravens for one week.
"This is one of the perks of winning the Kentucky Derby, being able to hang out here at the beautiful Baltimore camp and meet [coach John Harbaugh]," O'Neill said at the Ravens team facility in Owings Mills. "We're living up Baltimore."
But with the acclaim comes the scrutiny. In a sport surrounded with controversy of late, O'Neill has been handed three carbon dioxide violations and is currently fighting against an accusation that could land him a 180-day ban.
"It'd be great if you guys instead were asking why I wasn't a male model, or did I ever think about being a pro baseball player," O'Neill laughingly told reporters Wednesday. "It's all part of it. Obviously, if I didn't win the Derby, you guys would never be asking that."
With I'll Have Another in the spotlight after his win, and Bodemeister being named the favorite, a showdown is brewing between the two horses. The Preakness' race track (1 3/16 miles) is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby's, which figures to bode better for Bodemeister and the frenetic pace he set two weeks ago. I'll Have Another, Went the Day Well and Creative Cause all would have to make their final push in the last leg sooner if Bodemeister gallops to the same kind of lead this time around.
Bodemeister didn't arrive to Pimlico until this past Wednesday, but has since impressed his training staff during the short time he's been in Baltimore. Bodemeister ran on the main track on Thursday for the first time and looked the part of a potential Preakness winner, according to exercise trainer George Alvarez.
"He was not looking around," Alvarez said. "He was all business out there."
Though much of the attention has been centered on I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, the aforementioned Creative Cause and Went the Day Well are tied for the third-best odds at 6-1. Daddy Nose Best was given the next best at 12-1.
If I'll Have Another wins the Preakness, he'll be the first Kentucky Derby winner to claim a victory at Pimlico since Big Brown did so in 2008. O'Neill took it a step further and said his colt could be in good position for the first Triple Crown sweep since Affirmed in 1978.
"If anything, he's thriving right now," O'Neill said. "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."
Post 1: Tiger Walk (jockey Ramon Dominguez), 30-1 odds
Post 2: Teeth of the Dog (Joe Bravo), 15-1
Post 3: Pretension (Javier Santiago), 30-1
Post 4: Zetterholm (Junior Alvarado), 20-1
Post 5: Went the Day Well (John Velazquez), 6-1
Post 6: Creative Cause (Joel Rosario), 6-1
Post 7: Bodemeister (Mike Smith), 8-5
Post 8: Daddy Nose Best (Julien Leparoux), 12-1
Post 9: I'll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez), 5-2
Post 10: Optimizer (Corey Nakatani), 30-1
Post 11: Cozzetti (Jose Lezcano), 30-1
Posted May 18, 2012