The 138th running of the Kentucky Derby proved that some horses can cut it on a 1.25-mile track, while others can only get the job done at shorter distances.
It also proved that some horses can't get the job done on dirt, no matter how long the track is.
Here is a look at the Derby contenders who will likely challenge I'll Have Another at the Preakness, with even less success than they had at Churchill Downs.
It's getting harder and harder to justify the reasons why Union Rags can't seem to win against top-level competition, except to say that he's not up to snuff.
Despite entering the Derby field as the second favorite, Union Rags choked when the race started, coming out of the gates slow and getting stuck in traffic on the far turn. Just a few seconds into the race, his chances of winning were toast.
All of that hard work and preparation for nothing.
Union Rags was the heavy favorite at the Florida Derby earlier in the year and saw a similar outcome, which trainer Michael Matz attributed to a conspiracy theory against his horse. This time around, there was no conspiracy; there was simply an inability to compensate for a poor start.
The day after the Derby, Matz told the Philadelphia Daily News' Dick Jerardi, "We did everything we wanted except the last two minutes and that was the part we couldn’t help."
At this point, Union Rags might not even bother with the Preakness; instead, he might skip it and instead opt for the 1.5-mile Belmont, the third stop on the Triple Crown tour.
Maybe the extended rest will be good for him.
Went the Day Well
After finishing fourth at Churchill Downs, Went the Day Well will make a go of it at Pimlico, despite a cut on his right ankle sustained during the Derby, according to the Associated Press' Colin Fly. A press release on the Preakness' website confirmed the news.
Still, the horse's finish at Churchill Downs was a surprise at best, a fluke at worst. Even before the race, trainer Graham Motion wasn't confident in his charge's odds, given the fact that his 20-1 long shot Animal Kingdom was the unlikely winner in 2011.
Last week, Motion said to the Houston Chronicle's Tim Wilkin, "What are the chances of this happening? To come back and win this thing again…well, the laws of probability would say it's pretty unlikely to happen."
Though Went the Day Well managed a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs, he came into the race with an unimpressive resume, only triumphing against second-tier competition. He was one of only four horses who raced in this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and hasn't managed to win a graded stakes.
Despite being confirmed for the Preakness, this horse's camp could also have its sights set on the Belmont instead, a race for which he might be better suited.
A No. 2 post position wasn't what Optimizer wanted at Churchill Downs, and it showed in his 11th-place finish. Even prior to the race, there was doubt that the horse could run on the dirt track at the Derby, and those doubts appear to be founded.
Despite the odds, which horse might have an outside shot at the Preakness?
Given the fact that this is a horse made for long distances on grass tracks, it's even less likely that he'll fare well at Pimlico, another dirt track that's an even shorter distance (1.1875 miles) than Churchill Downs.
On top of that, his resume boasts just one career win, which was almost a year ago at Saratoga in August 2011.
Despite boasting a Hall of Fame trainer in D. Wayne Lukas, this horse doesn't appear to be the winning ticket, and that's not news to Lukas. Before the Derby, he was the one who told the AP, "I don't have any grandiose ideas we're going to go over there and win. He's got to step way up."
The case will be the same at the Preakness, and that step up will still be a step out of Optimizer's reach.