Race day is finally here! The 137th Preakness Stakes will be run Saturday afternoon, with Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another trying to once again hold off favorite Bodemeister and secure the second gem in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.
As the big race at Pimlico approaches, here's all the news you need to know, from the weather forecast to the latest odds and updates on some of the race's 11 entrants.
Mother Nature has certainly seen fit to smile on racing fans Saturday, as Weather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman predicts sunny skies, temperatures near 80 and relatively low humidity, which should make for near-perfect racing conditions.
“This race couldn’t have been timed better," Erdman said. "Rain chances return to Baltimore next week, with at least a chance of showers and thunderstorms each day next week.”
Here's a look at the post positions for Saturday's race, along with each horse's jockey and the most recent odds according to Bovada.
1. Tiger Walk (Kent Desormeaux): 30-1
2. Teeth of the Dog (Joe Bravo): 18-1
3. Pretension (Javier Santiago): 35-1
4. Zetterholm (Junior Alvarado): 20-1
5. Went the Day Well (John Velazquez): 6-1
6. Creative Cause (Joel Rosario): 13-2
7. Bodemeister (Mike Smith): 3-2
8. Daddy Nose Best (Julien Leparoux): 14-1
9. I'll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez): 3-1
10. Optimizer (Corey Nakatani): 30-1
11. Cozzetti (Jose Lezcano): 40-1
The overwhelming sentimental favorite Saturday afternoon will assuredly be I'll Have Another, as the Kentucky Derby winner will attempt to become the fifth horse since 2000 to follow up a win in the Run for the Roses with a victory at Pimlico.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of spectacle for I'll Have Another and trainer Doug O'Neill. However, as O'Neill told Richard Rosenblatt of the Associated Press via ABC News, not only is he taking his new-found fame in stride, but the more important half of the duo seems to be as well.
"It's been a blast. Incredible. We've taken advantage of it, and done some cool things," O'Neill said Friday morning, wearing a Preakness cap signed by area school children. "They just really rolled out the red carpet for us. Obviously, it's a lot of fun when your horse is doing as good as he is."
"He looks fantastic. Great energy," O'Neill said. "He's maintained his beautiful, long stride. We're just very happy with each day that goes by."
Bodemeister came out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby like he was shot of a cannon. Spurred on by sprinters Trinniberg and Hansen, Bodemeister set an otherworldly pace that eventually caused him to tire down the stretch, opening the door for I'll Have Another's charge to victory.
However, neither Trinniberg or Hansen are running in the Preakness. On a shorter track in perfect weather, Bodemeister is going to be a very difficult horse to beat, as reflected by his installation as the favorite in the race.
There's more than one racing expert that thinks this is more or less Bodemeister's race to lose, and The Washington Post handicapper Andrew Beyer expects Bodemeister to take the Preakness in impressive fashion.
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.
It may have a lot to do with the short distance (1 3/16 miles) of the race, but for whatever reason the Preakness has "held to form" more historically speaking, with favorites generally faring well and long shots faring like, well, long shots.
With that said, there are nine horses in the field besides I'll Have Another and Bodemeister. A few of those horses have a legitimate shot at winning, including Went the Day Well, who overcame a horrid start in his first race wearing blinkers to finish fourth at Churchill Downs.
Some handicappers are confident that the end of Went the Day Well's Derby run is more indicative of his chances in Baltimore than the beginning, and Anthony Affrunti of the New York Post has gone so far as to predict a victory for the Graham Motion-trained colt.
After a rough break and trip, he closed like a freight train for fourth on a speed-favoring track, and he won't have to run like Jerome Bettis to gain ground this Saturday. Velasquez, who is the best in the game at having a horse in the right spot, is a help in the saddle
Part of the fun in watching (and wagering on, where legal) horse racing is rooting for the long shot, that underdog horse that comes from nowhere to capture a Triple Crown race much like 30-1 shot Animal Kingdom did at the Kentucky Derby a year ago.
As I said, such an upset is somewhat less likely at Pimlico Race Course. However, at least one pundit is calling for one Saturday, as the New York Post's Vic Cangialosi reported that he thinks 20-1 long shot Zetterholm, who didn't run in Louisville, will shock the racing world in the Preakness.
Winner of last three has gotten better with each victory. Proven winner around two turns while coming off pace and this is the best distance for him of the Triple Crown Events. Rick Dutrow trained closer will run down historically quicker Preakness pace.