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Sunday, May 20, 2012 - Page updated at 09:30 p.m.
I'll Have Another wins Preakness, has Triple Crown chance | Horse racing
By Andrew Beyer
Special to The Washington Post
BALTIMORE — I'll Have Another came into the Preakness facing one of the toughest possible tactical situations in racing. His most formidable rival, Bodemeister, was the solitary front-runner in the field of 11 and would be able to control the pace as his jockey dictated. That is usually a formula for victory, whether the scenario develops in a maiden race or the second leg of the Triple Crown.
So when I'll Have Another made his last surge in the Pimlico stretch and caught the leader, this wasn't simply a case of a colt overhauling a tired leader. Bodemeister is a superior speed horse and he ran as well Saturday as he has in his six-race career. I'll Have Another's performance — though the winning margin was a neck — was much more impressive and authoritative than his victory by 1 ½ lengths in the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier.
He and Bodemeister both ran fast and trounced the rest of the field by about 9 lengths, erasing the impression this was a mediocre group of 3-year-olds.
I'll Have Another, trained by Doug O'Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, paid $8.40 to win as the second choice in the wagering. Bodemeister, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, was favored at 17-10.
O'Neill said I'll Have Another, seeking to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, will be pointed toward the June 9 Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
"We'll see how he comes out of (the Preakness), and if he comes out of it in good shape, we're heading to New York, baby," O'Neill said.
Gutierrez has competed at Emerald Downs in Auburn in each of the past four seasons, with one victory from 17 starts. He was based at Hastings in Vancouver, B.C., before leaving for Southern California last fall.
In the Kentucky Derby, Bodemeister had to set a torrid pace in order to outrun other fast rivals and Gutierrez secured a virtually perfect trip to catch the tired favorite in the stretch. But when the other speed horses defected from the Preakness field, Gutierrez was put in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't position. Should he try to put pressure on Bodemeister, and risk enervating his own mount, or let Bodemeister have an unchallenged lead? Before the $1 million race, Gutierrez told O'Neill, "If he goes slow, I want to be on top of him."
But when the gate opened in the 1-3/16-mile Preakness, Gutierrez neither restrained his mount nor pushed him to chase Bodemeister and was willing to let I'll Have Another run his own race.
Smith's colt cruised on the lead and hit the half-mile mark in 47.68 seconds — a soft pace that should have given him an insuperable advantage. It was the slowest half-mile in the Preakness since 1982, when Aloma's Ruler went in 48 seconds and led the rest of the way.
A furlong from the finish, I'll Have Another looked beaten. "I thought I put him away," Smith said.
But to the roar of a track-record crowd of 121,309, I'll Have Another surged to win in 1 minute, 55.94 seconds — a super effort given the slowness of the racing strip. He and Bodemeister each earned preliminary Beyer Speed Figures of 109, which would be the fastest Preakness performance since Curlin — the eventual North American Horse of the Year — won in 2007.
• I'll Have Another earned a 101 Beyer figure in the Derby.
• O'Neill has been accused in California of "milkshaking," the illegal practice of giving a horse a blend of bicarbonate of soda, sugar and electrolytes. He faces possible suspensions of 90 to 180 days, plus fines.
"We play by the rules," O'Neill said. "It's all about the horse. We're going to focus on the horse."
• Baffert said Bodemeister will skip the Belmont: "He's getting off the bus here."
The Associated Press contributed
to this report.
Triple Crown bids Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner in 1978. Since that feat, 12 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Here is how they fared in the Belmont Stakes in their bid to win the Triple Crown. Year Horse Belmont finish 2012 I'll Have Another ? 2008 Big Brown DNF* 2004 Smarty Jones 2nd 2003 Funny Cide 3rd 2002 War Emblem 8th 1999 Charismatic 3rd 1998 Real Quiet 2nd 1997 Silver Charm 2nd 1989 Sunday Silence 2nd 1987 Alysheba 4th 1981 Pleasant Colony 3rd 1979 Spectacular Bid 3rd * did not finish
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