When the 137th edition of the Preakness Stakes is run Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, all eyes will be certainly be focused on Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, as the colt attempts to win the second leg of thoroughbred racing's famed Triple Crown.
However, it's not I'll Have Another that will be the favorite when the starting gates open.
Derby runner-up Bodemeister, who set a blistering early pace at Churchill Downs before fading late and allowing I'll Have Another to charge past him into horse racing history, has been installed as an 3-2 favorite by oddsmakers, according to Bovada.
Here's a race-day wrap-up of what some experts from around the country think of Bodemeister's chances of making the Belmont Stakes a lot less interesting for casual sports fans.
He may be a bit biased on the subject and he was diplomatic about it, but famed trainer Bob Baffert was singing the praises of Bodemeister this week at Pimlico, telling ESPN's Gary West that he was surprised by how quickly Bodemeister recovered from his run in Louisville.
He ran hard [in the Derby] and then he just stopped. But it wasn't like he came out of the race totally exhausted. … I intended to give him four days off after that, but after three days, he wanted to go back to the track [for a routine gallop]."
Baffert also seemed relatively pleased with the post position that Bodemeister received for Saturday's race, telling The Boston Globe that the seventh gate was an advantageous position.
With him, anything in the middle would be fine. With the Preakness, you just don’t want to be stuck on the inside where you have to use your horse a little bit. The Derby winner drew really well, also.’
Ray Kerrison of the New York Post consulted with Jerry Brown, proprietor of the Thoro-Graph speed charts, for his take on the Preakness. Brown deemed it a "very complicated" race, in which no clear favorite exists, including Bodemeister.
Going into the Derby, the current crop looked average in terms of ability but deep. But coming out of the Derby it looks average or less in terms of ability and not so deep.
Bodemeister will be making his sixth start of the year, his third start in five weeks and he’s coming off two top efforts. There’s a reason why horses don’t win the Triple Crown. When they make their third start in five weeks off two good efforts, they very often don’t run well. He’s in exactly that situation.
Brown’s sum-up: “I think there’s a good chance one of the top three will win, but I can’t figure out which one it will be, so I’ll probably key a long shot.”
As Bill Finley, who has covered horse racing for the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, pointed out in an ESPN article Thursday, the Preakness has a tendency to hold true to form. With that being the case, it's hard not to like the favorite's chances in Saturday's race.
It's hard to get past Bodemeister. The story of his Kentucky Derby performance doesn't necessarily need repeating, but here goes: He set ridiculously fast fractions yet was good enough to hold on for second. Faced with an adverse situation, he performed admirably. Before that, he was sensational when winning the Arkansas Derby. This is a talented animal and he's in the hands of Bob Baffert, who has won this race five times.
Two weeks after the Derby, he figures to face the exact opposite scenario. There is no Trinniberg or Hansen in here. Bodemeister looks like the only serious speed. Where he went 22.1, 45.1 and 1:09.4 in the Derby, he might just get away with fractions 24, 48 and 1:12 here. If so, it's hard to imagine him losing.
Like Jerry Brown, Andrew Beyer, who covers horse racing for the Washington Post, has some questions about the physical toll that Bodemeister's hectic recent schedule may have taken on the three-year-old.
However, Beyer is confident that if Baffert thinks Bodemeister's ready, then he's ready. If that's the case Beyer believes the dreams of a Triple Crown winner in 2012 are going to be dashed this weekend.
At Pimlico there is only one reason to question Bodemeister, and it has nothing to do with his talent. The colt has crammed his whole five-race career into the span of four months, and the exertions may have taken a toll on him. Baffert believes his colt has bounced back and is ready to run at the level he did in the Derby.
Assuming that Baffert is right, Bodemeister ought to benefit from a perfect set-up in the Preakness. The defection of Hansen removed the most formidable other speed horse from the field. I’ll Have Another will probably try to put some pressure on Bodemeister, but Baffert’s colt figures to get a comfortable early lead — a huge advantage in any race.
Bodemeister wins the Preakness in a runaway, with Creative Cause second and I’ll Have Another third.
The great thing (or maddening thing, depending on how you look at it) is that horse races are just that, and when animals are involved there's just no 100 percent certain way to tell what's going to happen until the race begins.
That said, the consensus seems to be that Bodemeister is the fastest horse in this race, and it's really not that close.
The Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races, and the weather is expected to be ideal, which should allow Bodemeister to showcase that speed. With no other burners in the field to tire him out, Bodemeister should be able to set a pace that the other horses, I'll Have Another included, will be hard-pressed to match.
Sorry folks (especially the folks at Belmont), but it appears that this year's race for the Triple Crown is going to end Saturday afternoon, and that owner Ahmad Zayet will end his Triple Crown drought.
My decidedly NOT-expert prediction: Bodemeister by four lengths