Kentucky Derby Winner Iíll Have Another (left), with exercise rider Johnny Garcia up, walk with Sharon Greenberg and lead pony, Blue, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Wednesday.
After Iíll Have Anotherís surprising win in the Kentucky Derby at 15-1 odds, the California colt will be running in the Preakness with a bullís-eye on his back as perhaps racingís next superstar.
Trainer Doug OíNeill is hoping that Iíll Have Another can replicate his 1 1-2-length victory at Pimlico next weekend with a chance to capture the Triple Crown three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes. A full field of 14 is expected for the 1 3-16-mile Preakness, a sign that not everyone finds the Derby winner all that intimidating.
ďIn this day and age, people arenít going to be put off at taking a shot in the Preakness,Ē said Graham Motion, who won last yearís Derby with Animal Kingdom and trains Went the Day Well, fourth in this yearís Derby. ďItís going to take a lot to intimidate people not to come back in the Preakness.Ē
Went the Day Well will test Iíll Have Another again. Other Derby horses being considered for a shot are Bob Baffertís duo of Bodemeister and Liaison; Creative Cause, who was fifth at Churchill Downs; Hansen, ninth in the Derby; and Optimizer, who was 11th.
Hansenís connections are expected to wait until early next week to decide.
OíNeill singled out Bodemeister and Went the Day Well as two rivals that ďwould be scary.Ē
Went the Day Well was slow getting out of the gate and fell several lengths back going into the first turn in the Derby.
ďWith a clear trip, he could be more of a factor,Ē OíNeill said.
Motion agreed, saying, ďEvery time Iíve run this horse heís improved.Ē
Bodemeister set a blistering early pace in the Derby only to be caught in the final 100 yards by Iíll Have Another and settled for second. Liaison was sixth. Five-time Preakness winner Baffert planned to confirm his duoís status this weekend after returning to Churchill Downs from his base in California.
ďI respect Bodemeister and his connections big-time,Ē OíNeill said. ďIíd rather he didnít run, but if he runs, we have a colt thatís good enough and versatile enough to stick close and not let Bodemeister have everything his own way.Ē
Last year, Shackleford finished fourth in the Derby, then defeated Animal Kingdom by a half-length to win the Preakness.
Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli has indicated that if Bodemeister runs, he would make him the favorite over the Derby champ. OíNeill canít argue, either.
ďThis crop of 3-year-olds is so evenly matched,Ē he said. ďBodemeister has probably been the most consistent. The one thing my colt has is heís 3-for-3 (this year) and heís done nothing but win. As long as heís done that, Iím OK with a little higher odds.Ē
While Motion isnít afraid of taking on Iíll Have Another again, he respects the colt.
ďHe hasnít done anything wrong this year,Ē he said. ďHeís an impressive horse.Ē
Possible new challengers lining up include: Canonero II Stakes winner Pretension; Cozzetti, fourth in the Arkansas Derby; Derby Trial winner Hierro; Sunland Derby runner-up Isnít He Clever, eighth in the Arkansas Derby; Teeth of the Dog; Tiger Walk, fourth in the Wood Memorial; and Zetterholm, trained by Rick Dutrow, who won the 2008 Derby and Preakness with Big Brown.
Iíll Have Another is training for the Preakness at Pimlico, where he arrived two days after his Derby win in a break from tradition. In recent years, the Derby winner hasnít gotten to Baltimore until a few days before the race.
OíNeill, based in California, doesnít have any horses at Churchill, so he had no reason to keep Iíll Have Another in Louisville. In another twist, Iíll Have Another isnít in the stakes barn at Pimlico, which usually houses the Derby winner. OíNeill chose a nearby barn for his small traveling party.
ďI like having my own quiet, serene spot,Ē he said.
OíNeill last ran a horse in Maryland six years ago when Thorís Echo won the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash on his way to winning an Eclipse Award as the nationís top sprinter. Iíll Have Another owner J. Paul Reddamís only other Preakness starter, Wilko, was 12th in 2005.
Iíll Have Anotherís jockey, Mario Gutierrez, has never ridden at Pimlico. He plans to arrive Tuesday of Preakness week to gallop a few horses and familiarize himself with the trackís tighter turns.
ďAll the tracks are the same, they have dirt on them and theyíre a circle,Ē he said. ďHopefully everything goes right.Ē
Only 11 horses have swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, with Affirmed the last to do so in 1978. There have been 11 Triple tries since, most recently by Big Brown in 2008. He won the first two legs, then finished last in the 1 1-2-mile Belmont.
OíNeill believes Iíll Have Anotherís running style is versatile enough to adapt to the Triple Crown grind of three races at varying distances five weeks apart.
ďHeís got a tremendous first step out of the gate and heís got speed after that if you want,Ē the trainer said. ďHe can be right up on the pace. If itís a hot and heavy pace he can be laying off it like he was in the Kentucky Derby.
ďHeís got that `ití factor of wanting to be the first one to the wire and that you canít train. I know heís got stamina and the heart, so itís the luck of maintaining what we got right now. I donít see any reason why he canít repeat his current form.ĒMORE IN Sports Wire
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