These next two and a half weeks are a very exciting time in the sport of Horse Racing. With I’ll Have Another winning the first two legs of the 2012 Triple Crown, the build up and anticipation to the 2012 Belmont Stakes on June 9 is, in my opinion, like no other in the sports world.
As I looked back at the Preakness Stakes last weekend, I’ll Have Another’s win, to me, was more impressive than his Santa Anita Derby win and his Kentucky Derby win.
As I’ve stated a couple of times before, in the Santa Anita Derby I’ll Have Another was at an extreme disadvantage. Albeit, he was in a good striking position (third on the outside) around the first turn and down the backside. But on the turn for home, with I’ll Have Another still racing on the outside, Creative Cause, an elite three year old for sure, found a hole on the rail and ran through it. In the process, not only did Creative Cause save more ground than I’ll Have Another, but he also got the oh-so-important “first run” (momentum) on him as well.
While watching the race unfold live, I recall saying to myself “nice move” and figured the race was over at that point. But, like normal, I was wrong. I’ll Have Another was put into a drive by jockey Mario Gutierrez and, remarkably, ran down Creative Cause and early, stubborn pace setter Blueskiesandrainbows (both of whom were giving it 110%). I’ll Have Another prevailed by a nose over Creative Cause and a half length in front of Blueskiesandrainbows. I walked away from the race mumbling to myself…”this horse is going to be dangerous in the Triple Crown races”
Here it is again, pay close attention to the chain of events from the far turn to the wire. Kind of like “the race within the race”
I’ll Have Another’s Kentucky Derby was super impressive also. Although he was the recipient of an almost perfect trip, the fact still remains he defeated the strongest Kentucky Derby field this correspondent has seen in quite a few years….and he did it while breaking from #19 post position which is something that’s never been done before.
But the Preakness last weekend might have been his best performance to date. With the fleet Bodemeister rolling along on an uncontested the entire way around the speed favoring Pimlico Racetrack, I’ll Have Another was some four or five lengths behind at one point. Once again that, readers, is not an enviable position to be in.
Like on the final turn in the Santa Anita Derby, on the final turn of the Preakness, I thought I’ll Have Another was a beaten animal. In fact, I was positive of it when I saw Mario Gutierrez throw a “cross” or two with his reigns at I’ll Have Another, then immediately afterwards reach back and crack the good looking chestnut with a right handed whip. I quickly peaked at Mike Smith (on Bodemeister) and saw him motionless on his horse.
Needless to say, I saw I’ll Have Another being put into a drive while Bodemeister had not even been asked for his best yet….”Yep”, I thought to myself, “this one is over”.
Lo and behold, I’ll Have Another kept coming and kept coming and kept working and kept working until finally, in deep stretch, he was able to stick his head in front. Once again, I walked away mumbling to myself except this time I said “wow…three straight very impressive races”
Looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes, I’ll Have Another seems to have come out of the Preakness well and is already bedded down at Belmont Park in New York.
“He looks fantastic this (Monday) morning,” said (assistant trainer to Doug O’Neil) Jack Sisterson. “He ate everything up last night and is a very happy horse. He walked the shedrow this morning. I have to speak with Doug, but it’s likely he will go to the main track at some point this week.”
“He came out of the Preakness fantastic, just like he came out of the Derby”. Sisterson added, “He acts like he never even ran a race.”
Good, because he’s going to need to be “doing fantastic” if he plans on becoming Horse Racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.
As far as the others:
Bodemeister’s trainer Bob Baffert said “He was actually pretty happy today, he ate up, got on a plane and headed back to California. He came out of it really well.”
“He’s a pretty amazing animal,” Baffert added. “He didn’t act tired. After the race, he came back to the barn and he wasn’t as tired as he was after the Derby.”
Bodemeister will remain in training but is skipping the Belmont Stakes for sure. Baffert went on to say he’s “had enough (of I’ll Have Another)” and that his son of Empire Maker “needs a little break because I’ve run him hard lately”
Baffert did say that he might run Paynter in the “Test of Champions”. In fact Paynter, who won a race on the undercard of the Preakness, has been shipped to Belmont already.
“We’re going to train him there,” Baffert said. “If it looks like he snapped out of his race, we’ll run him in the Belmont if he looks really good.”
Preakness third place finisher Creative Cause appears to have come out of the race in good order.
“He came out of the race OK,” said trainer Mike Harrington and that he was taking his gray son of Giant’s Causeway “Back to California to regroup.”
When asked about returning for the Belmont Stakes, Harrington said it was “50-50” at this point.
Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said that Zetterholm appeared to come out of his fourth place finish in the Preakness in good shape as well and has been sent back to Dutrow’s barn at Aqueduct Sunday morning.
“I got what I wanted from the race,” Dutrow said. “I was hoping and praying for a third or fourth-place finish. We got the fourth-place finish and we left there satisfied, but I did not see my horse run big. I know he put in his little effort there, but I thought he could have run better. He didn’t change leads, which is very unlike him, and he didn’t get along so well with the track.”
Trainer Michael Matz said Teeth of the Dog, who was fifth in the Preakness, came out of the race in good condition.
“I was happy with the way he ran. He’s kind of inexperienced and he’s probably not as good as those horses right now,” said Matz on Monday morning.
Matz added that Teeth of the Dog will not run in the Belmont Stakes but should have a much bigger threat in hopes of foiling I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown in Union Rags.
Union Rags, who finished a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby, was held out of the Preakness to await the Belmont Stakes. Matz is confident Union Rags will be well suited to the 1 1/2-mile oval and the sweeping turns that Belmont Park has.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Matz said. “He’s won there before, so I don’t think that part of it will be a problem.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said sixth place Preakness finisher Optimizer left Pimlico early Sunday for the van ride back to his home base at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
“He’s fine; he came out of the race in good shape. We’re going to get home and (owner) Mr. (Brad) Kelley and I talked last night and we’re going to talk a little bit further when we get back.”
“I would say we’re probable for theBelmontjust because of the distance and the different configuration of the race track,” said Lukas.
“I’d say it’s 50-50 right now,” he added. “The winner (I’ll Have Another) is a nice horse, but we’re not going to hand (the Triple Crown) to him. He’s got to earn it.”
Seventh place Preakness finisher Cozzetti returned home (Churchill Downs) Sunday afternoon. Trainer Dale Romans has several options with this horse who is by grass champion Cozzene.
When asked if he would go onto the Belmont Stakes with the horse Romans said: “I’m not sure, we’ll regroup. We’ve got to figure out why he’s not running better. He’s a better horse than he’s shown. Once we get back to Kentucky, we’ll figure him out.”
I would imagine Romans will pass the Belmont with Cozzetti based on two reasons. one, he has Dullahan, who flying late in the Derby, rested and ready in his barn and two, Cozzetti appears to have a future on the grass and will/should point him in that direction.
“He (Dullahan) worked (five furlongs in1:00 1/5) Saturday morning at Churchill, he’s on track for a big Belmont.”
Trainer Ignacio Correas and his eighth-place Preakness runner Tiger Walk was back at his home base (Sagamore Farm) Sunday morning after leaving Pimlico .
“He came out of the race good,” Correas said. “He just walked today. He was probably a little tired.”
When Correas was asked about returning his colt for the Belmont Stakes, he replied: “I don’t think so, I haven’t talked to (owner) Kevin (Plank) about it yet. We’re going to talk during the week, but I don’t think so.”
Went the Day Well, who to me, was a major disappointment while finishing a well beaten tenth in the Preakness seems to have come out of the race in good shape but, according to trainer Graham Motion, will probably pass the Belmont Stakes.
“He seems OK. He has a couple of scrapes, but all in all, he’s good,” Motion said Sunday morning.
When asked for an explanation of why his horse ran so poorly last Saturday Motion said: “Maybe the Derby took more out of him that I realized… I just don’t know,”
“I think we’ll point to some of the summer races like the Travers (on August 25 at Saratoga),” Motion added.
Trainer Chris Grove said Pretension, who was 11th and last in the Preakness, exited the race in good order.
“He’s in great shape. No problems. I think we’ll probably head for the Mike Lee ( which is a New York Bred Stakes race) in late June.”
Mark Valeski, who won the Peter Pan Stakes on May 12 and was being considered for the Belmont Stakes, is now “doubtful” for the race said trainer Larry Jones.
“Mark’s actually doing OK, but he got a little tired after the race,” Jones said Monday from Churchill Downs. “He doesn’t have the same energy level. It’s looking like the Belmont is more and more doubtful. He’s not showing a lot of sparkle. I’m not saying he’s 100 percent out. But we may end up by passing the Belmont and just waiting for the Dwyer. He’s acting like he’s a little knocked out”.
Others who are being considered for the June 9 classic include: (In alphabetical order)
Alpha-was 12th in theDerby and skipped the Preakness.
Atigun- won an allowance race at Churchill Downs recently.
Five Sixteen- won an allowance race at Aqueduct in his last start
Guyana Star Dweej- came second at Belmont in an allowance/optional claiming race in his last start
Rousing Sermon- ran a decent 8th in the Kentucky Derby his last time out.
Stealcase- third in the Derby Trial about a week before the Kentucky Derby
Unstoppable U- allowance winner at Belmont recently.