Given the pace scenario, Bodemeister appears poised to turn the tables on I’ll Have Another in Saturday’s second leg of the American Triple Crown, the 137th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes.
NBCSports.com's livestream coverage of the race begins at 4:30 p.m. ET.
The Kentucky Derby did not set up kindly for the frontrunner, with Bodemeister being forced to set wickedly fast fractions on the lead before weakening to second, but none of his early challengers will return at Pimlico.
That leaves Bodemeister as the controlling speed in the 11-horse Preakness field, capable of dictating the early tempo while saving plenty for the finish. He will break from the perfect starting spot, post No. 7, with jockey Mike Smith.
Bodemeister showed what he could do when left alone in his final Kentucky Derby prep, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, establishing a comfortable pace before running away to a 9 1/2-length decision that netted a 105 BRIS Speed rating (the top last-race number in the Kentucky Derby field). He is generally regarded as the most talented member of the 3-year-old division.
I'll Have Another catches Bodemeister down the stretch again to move 1 win from the Triple Crown.
That’s asking a lot of a lightly-raced colt and skeptics are predicting a “bounce,” a sudden form reversal, due to the demanding schedule. But that isn’t a legitimate concern given Baffert’s track record; his horses hold their form over the two-week gap between the first two Triple Crown races, with a staggering five Preakness victories from runners exiting the Kentucky Derby.
Even if Bodemeister takes a small step back, he’s capable of holding in the latter stages given his tactical advantage. That’s what happened with Rachel Alexandra, who was the controlling speed in the 2009 Preakness following her awe-inspiring 20 1/4-length win in the Kentucky Oaks. After reaching the top of the Preakness stretch with a sizable advantage, Rachel Alexandra began to toil as a pack of rivals closed in late. The wire came in time as she persevered, but her Speed rating dropped significantly (from 111 to 105).
After coming up a little short in the Kentucky Derby, Bodemeister will make amends with a Preakness victory.
I’ll Have Another shipped immediately to Baltimore following his 1 1/2-length triumph in the Kentucky Derby and is doing well by all accounts in his morning preparations. The chestnut colt rallied from seventh place, nearly 10 lengths behind the free-wheeling Bodemeister after the opening half-mile, but will likely change tactics by racing much closer during the opening stages of the Preakness.
Three for three this year, I’ll Have Another displayed a high cruising speed when capturing Feb. 2's Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in his seasonal bow and the Doug O’Neill trainee is a threat to pounce from his tracking position Saturday.
Went the Day Well exited an encouraging fourth in the Derby, his first class test, and may continue to show more with a clean trip in the Preakness.
From the same connections of last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Went the Day Well dropped far back after being clobbered at the start but came flying late to miss by only 2 1/2 lengths, galloping out strongly after the wire. The improving colt still faces a daunting task against Bodemeister, but Went the Day Well is a serious contender for runnerup.
Daddy Nose Best was training forwardly in advance of the Derby but never fired, checking in 10th. He opened the year with nice wins over lesser rivals in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby and Grade 3 Sunland Derby, but the jury is out about his ability to compete at this level.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see him rebound with a better performance, but Daddy Nose Best’s late running style does not appear to fit well in this spot.
Teeth of the Dog is probably the most dangerous new shooter, finishing third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes in his last outing, but the Michael Matz-trained colt is still relatively inexperienced having broken his maiden only two starts ago. He is well-drawn for a ground-saving stalking trip from post 2 and owns the potential for a minor award with further improvement, but Teeth of the Dog still has much to prove.
The remaining Preakness entrants — Cozzetti, Optimizer, Pretension, Tiger Walk and Zetterholm — all look seriously challenged from a class and speed rating perspective.