I'll Have Another is making a bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, and he just might have the speed to do it.
Unfortunately for him, though, there are several other horses who are fast enough to sweep the Preakness crown right out from under him.
Several of this year's Kentucky Derby contenders were described with the caveat: If the race were a little bit shorter, they'd have a chance of winning. Those shorter distance speed demons will get the opportunity to show what they're made of at the Preakness on May 19—and thwart Derby winner I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid in the process.
Here's a look at some of the early contenders for the Preakness.
By now, the world is sick of hearing about the little colt who almost could, but he is perhaps the most well-suited horse of them all for the Preakness. For much of the Derby, the odds-on favorite dominated the rest of the field, even leading by five lengths at one point.
Unfortunately, he couldn't hold on for the final furlong, which gave I'll Have Another an opportunity to eclipse him.
Trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner and five-time Preakness winner, isn't putting any pressure on his horse, but he must know that the 1 3/16-mile track is far better suited to his colt's strengths than the track at Churchill Downs. Despite his second-place finish, Bodemeister showed toughness and skill, even in defeat, hanging with I'll Have Another until the final second.
Baffert hasn't yet confirmed that Bodemeister will even take on the challenge at the Preakness, but it's hard to believe he won't race his horse. After coming so close at Churchill Downs, it would be a shame for him to miss a race he is perfectly suited for.
This is a horse who's been able to consistently hang in there with the best of the best, but he hasn't quite been able to beat them. The horse entered the race with 11-1 odds but finished in fifth place.
Creative Cause seemed like a good sleeper pick to win at Churchill Downs because in each of his five career races, he'd finished on the board and never lost by more than a length. On top of that, he beat favorite Bodemeister in the San Felipe Stakes.
But alas, there was no luck to be found for him at Churchill Downs. Perhaps it was the muddy, sloppy track; perhaps the race was too long for him to showcase his speed. Whatever the case, his win at the San Felipe showed he has the goods to stick with Bodemeister; now all he needs to do is pull an I'll Have Another and use that speed to dominate in the final leg.
The horse who's more famous for his white coat than any of his racing exploits finished in ninth place in the Derby after coming out of the gate a bit on the jumpy side. Like many of the contenders, the shorter track and the smaller field at the Preakness will better suite his style.
At Churchill Downs, Hansen was slow out of the gate but slowly gained on the rest of the field before emerging in third at the first quarter-mile. But after his rough start, he had too much ground to make up and started flagging as the race drew to a close.
Owner Dr. Kendall Hansen admitted that his prize colt just couldn't make it the whole way at the Derby, telling Cincinnati.com's Joe Reedy, "I have to accept the fact that maybe he is a mile and one-eighth horse. We'll find out. He's going to Baltimore and we will test this group again."
If Hansen can get a good start and make it a tiny bit farther than the 1 1/8-mile cap his owner put on him, he stands a chance of winning.
It only seems fair to say that the horse who had the second-best odds heading into the Derby might have a better chance in the Preakness, but after the way he's run in his past couple of races, there won't be a lot of people betting on Union Rags for much longer.
Who has the best chance of beating I'll Have Another at the Preakness?
Leading up to the Derby, trainer Mike Matz talked freely about how he attributed a poor performance at the Florida Derby to an idea that the small field had conspired to hinder the heavy favorite, making it harder for him to run the way he liked to run. Matz employed similar logic after the Derby, despite the fact that a field of 20 horses all out for the same prize was unlikely to be solely focused on Union Rags.
If any horse was to be conspired upon, it was Bodemeister—and obviously, that didn't work.
Union Rags broke slow at Churchill Downs and got stuck in the back of the track after hitting traffic. Afterward, Matz told the Associated Press, "I don't mind getting beat, I just don't like getting beat the way he did in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby."
Union Rags will have one more chance at the Preakness to prove he's not a flash in the pan. If he fails again, there might be no choice but to conclude that he's not that good.