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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Brendan O'Meara's 2012 Preakness Stakes Preview

By | News

I’ll Have Another stole the show when he overtook a tiring Bodemeister to win the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. Now it’s his time to shine as the leading horse come Saturday for what should be a competitive renewal of the $1 million, mile and 3/16, 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.


Not since 1978 when Affirmed beat Alydar three times has there been a Triple Crown winner. There have been many flirtations, noses and guarantees in the 34 years since, but none have delivered.

Trained by California-based Doug O’Neil, I’ll Have Another has been in Baltimore training up to the Preakness and is this year’s hope of snapping that 34-year drought.

“I’m looking for energy and for him to maintain his stride. He has such a long stride. He continues to keep that,” O’Neill said. “He’s got great energy and a great appetite. Those are the basic things I’m looking to maintain.”

O’Neil was still riding high from the Derby win, taking a moment to beam at the strapping chestnut son of Jim Dandy and Travers winner Flower Alley.

Look at that coat. He’s handled everything. He shipped from California to Kentucky and now to Maryland. He hasn’t missed a beat. An average horse couldn’t do that. As you ask horses to do things like this, the average horse would lose his appetite and you’d have to back off and slow down,” O’Neill said. “I’ll Have Another has just been thriving on it. The more we ask him, the more he gives. His overall appearance and energy level are just sensational.”

I’ll Have Another’s composure and demeanor separates him and makes him a special talent.

“He’s a very confident colt. He’s a very relaxed colt. He sleeps a lot in his stall, which is a great sign of a big horse. He’s very reserved. Then, on the track he’s got a lot of energy and spunk, but it’s not nervous energy,” O’Neill said. “If he were human, he would have been somebody on stage doing Broadway or a top athlete. He likes the spotlight. He thrives on the attention. That’s a special quality.”

The order of proceedings prior to the running of the Preakness is to parade the horses onto the turf course to saddle them. O’Neil will opt to saddle I’ll Have Another in the downstairs paddock before parading onto the turf course. With that in mind, O’Neil put his Derby champion through the necessary paces.

“The game plan now will be to saddle downstairs there and then go out on the turf course where they do the ‘riders up,’” O’Neill said. “I like breaking up the monotony a little bit and we saddle these guys in stalls seven days a week. I just don’t want to saddle him in the wide-open if we don’t have to. They offered that opportunity to saddle in the stalls. I’d like to keep that consistent.”

Bodemeister, who finished a gallant second to I’ll Have Another, galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs. Once trainer Bob Baffert got a look at him Monday, he saw no reason not to try and win his sixth career Preakness Stakes (Silver Charm, 1997, Real Quiet 1998, Point Given, 2001, War Emblem, 2002, Lookin at Lucky, 2010).

“He cooled out quickly and started to eat right after the race,” Baffert said. “I was worried that he might be wiped out and just stay in the back of his stall for three days and sulk, but he never did.”

Bodemeister will not breeze leading up to the Preakness. This practice is not uncommon for a Baffert trainee.

“I didn’t work Lookin At Lucky after the Derby,” Baffert said. “If a horse didn’t really run or didn’t show up in the Derby, I might breeze them to see if I was missing something.”

Bodemeister won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby three weeks prior to the Derby, an effort that made some question whether he could run a winning effort in Kentucky. He then set blistering fraction times before he surrendered the lead to I’ll Have Another at the 16th pole.

“He deserves [a shot at the Preakness],” Baffert said of Bodemeister. “He won the Arkansas Derby and then came back in three weeks and ran a great race. He looks good and I don’t see why he can’t run another one.”

Dullahan, the late-charging third place-finisher in the Derby, will skip the Preakness and instead aim for the Belmont Stakes three weeks later.

“Dale Romans loves the way Dullahan came out of the Kentucky Derby and believes we could win the Preakness,” manager of Donegal Racing Jerry Crawford said. “But we believe we have a 3-year-old ‘Horse of the Year’ candidate and that his future is best served by not asking him to race for the third time in just five weeks in the Preakness.”

Team Valor’s Went the Day Well, fourth in the Derby, is ready to arrive at Pimlico from his home barn in Fair Hill, Maryland.

“He walked, got turned out and galloped a mile on the main track,” trainer Graham Motion said.

2011 juvenile champion Hansen, ninth in the Derby, came out of the race well according to trainer Mike Maker. The real question will be whether or not the Preakness distance of 9 1/2 furlongs will be too long for the white son of Tapit. Turns out, that’s exactly what Hansen’s connections think and they will skip the Preakness.

“It is a tough call,” Dr. Kendall Hansen said of the Preakness. “We want him to be the 3-year-old champion, but to do that, he has to win one of the classics. The mile and three-sixteenths (of the Preakness) may be a little bit out of his best distance. I think he is best between seven and nine furlongs, but he can go more than nine if he is calm and relaxed like he was in the Gotham.”

“He is not going,” Maker said. “That would be coming back a little quick.”

Other horses considering the Preakness are Creative Cause, Tiger’s Walk, Optimizer, Pretension, Liason, Zetterholm, Teeth of the Dog, and Daddy Nose Best.

The Preakness will air on NBC at 6:18 p.m.

Brendan O’Meara is the author of Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. He can be followed on Twitter @BrendanOMeara (hyperlink: http://twitter.com/brendanomeara).

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