Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another will most likely have to face a full field when he runs for the the second crown of the Triple Crown, the 137th Preakness Stakes on May 19.
The son of Flower Alley left via plane for the Pimlico race course in Maryland earlier today. This gives him an early-bird start on the preparations for the race.
DRF.com reported about the possible starters for the Preakness, and right now there are 16 horses being pointed to the race. The maximum possible runners in Pimlico is 14.
But among the 16 considering the Preakness, there are two very key runners that are not on the list, according to the report.
Kentucky Derby second-betting choice Union Rags is most likely out as a possible candidate. Trainer Michael Matz said on the report that the horse was fine physically but had been lying down all day.
He must be feeling cumulative effects from the tough trip of the past two races, and definitely it would be better to rest him and possibly point him to the Belmont Stakes.
Another key horse not running will be Jerome Stakes winner The Lumber Guy. This is an important fact because he was one of the few horses capable of going toe-to-toe with Bodemeister from the start and his absence could pave the way for easy fractions by Bodemeister.
Among the Derby runners that apparently will wheel back for the Preakness and challenge I'll Have Another are Bodemeister (second), Dullahan (third), Went the Day Well (fourth), Creative Cause (fifth), Liaison (sixth), Hansen (ninth) and Optimizer (11th).
And the list of horses that didn't run in the Derby shows Derby Trial winner Hierro and his runner-up Paynter, Brimstone Island, Cozzetti, Pretension, Teeth of the Dog, Tiger Walk and Zetterholm. There is a possibility that Borderland Derby winner Isn’t He Clever could be pointed here as well.
Paynter is owned by Ahmed Zayat—Bodemeister's owner—and contrary to what was reported, I see it feasible for him to run as well. He is not as fast as Bodemeister and runs better stalking the pace rather than on it.
All signs apparently point to favor Bodemeister for a big run since the possible pace challengers seem likely to be out of the race. I am sure Bob Baffert will weigh this heavily when he decides to run him back.
I think that would be the main deciding factor in him running the Preakness. If he gets an easy trip up front, it will enhance his chances, but I still think it will be tough either way as he will go for his third straight big race in five weeks.
Went the Day Well is one horse I expected to skip the Preakness and go straight to the Belmont, but apparently will be running. After Bodemeister, this horse impressed me the most. He was bumped at the start, had to run seven-wide and was the one who closed the fastest to the wire.
He entered 10.5 lengths behind Bodemeister and finished just 2.5 lengths from I'll Have Another—one behind Bodemeister. Whichever is his next race you have to account for him.
Right now it seems like Hansen would be the only horse that could go with Bodemeister to the front, but that could spell doom for both. It will be interesting to see—if they both go—which strategy they will follow.
I'll Have Another will most likely run closer to the pace this time, as will any of the trailing horses. Two stalkers to keep an eye on should be Hierro, Creative Cause and Liaison.
Liaison's surprising sixth apparently validates the thought that he didn't like Santa Anita. If he liked Churchill Downs, he'll love Pimlico.
Hierro will be fresh from the Derby Trial win, and Creative Cause should have a better striking position this time. They will be two key horses to follow for their preparation for this race.
Dullahan and Optimizer seem to be ones that will be affected the most as they will have to be closer to the pace. I think their connections might have to think twice and maybe wait until the pace situation is clearer before taking their decision towards this race.
By next week it is very possible that the amount of horses will be slimmed down a bit, but it is very possible that over 12 horses will make the starting gate.
Whatever is the final tally of contenders, Derby winner I'll Have Another will have a tough task ahead. But this wouldn't be the first time for him and should be favored to take the Preakness.