Here we go again. This is where we left you two weeks ago; trying to decipher a formula of countless possibilities.
In the case of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), it’s all about pace and what impulses are going to dictate the actions of jockeys Mario Gutierrez, Joel Rosario, and any other rider who has to decide just how big they want Bodemeister’s butt to look in front of them.
Mike Smith, on the Derby runner-up, has little to occupy his brain. Break well, go to the lead, and don’t go a half in :45 1/5; that’s about it. His job is to get Bode to the eighth pole without too much huffing and puffing and having some legs left this time in the final furlong.
Gutierrez, especially, has to decide just how much slack to give Bode. At Churchill Downs, he basically had to sit back and allow the Derby gods to clear a dream path for him. Of course, the horse had to be good enough to take advantage of his good fortune. Thank goodness for Team O’Neill that the Derby gods were also occupied at the time setting up an obstacle course and bumper car ride for Union Rags, Went the Day Well , and several other less fortunate ones.
In the Preakness, the key will be how close to Bode Gutierrez decides to place I’ll Have Another, who has an ideal post that should allow Gutierrez the option of putting as much pressure on Bode as he wants. He just has to be careful not to put too much or too little.
Expect Went the Day Well to be much closer this time, assuming he breaks well and doesn’t encounter any roadblocks. The same with Creative Cause, who would have little chance with the same extremely wide trip he had in the Derby.
So, the big question remains, is Bodemeister a superstar in the making? We know what he accomplished coming back in three weeks off that monster effort in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) If he wins or runs big in the Preakness coming back in two weeks off that effort at Churchill, with so little racing foundation under him, he could very well be. We should know at about the eighth pole. He’s either going to blow right on by it or it’s going to hit him right in the face.
And who knows if the superstar isn’t I’ll Have Another? The way he keeps winning and the way he trains, he certainly has every right to be. And racing can use a horse going for the Triple Crown again.
I'll Have Another - Photo by Steve Haskin
If Creative Cause wins or runs big, he could become racing’s next iron horse. He just never runs a bad race, regardless of distance or track. And who knows what the future holds in store for Went the Day Well, who seems to have so much room for improvement.
The new shooters have as a whole an inconsistent running style. Teeth of the Dog and Pretension have been on or close to the lead on occasion, but they’ve also come from way out of it. The same can be said of Cozzetti. Let’s just assume that of these three, Pretension is the likely one to be a pace presence, because he’s shown sprint speed. The New York-bred Zetterholm is a consistent closer and will be looking for a hot pace to set up his closing kick, which he used successfully in his last three races against state-breds. He actually is a very attractive colt, with strong quarters and a great temperament.
Owners Tony and Ann Grey and Zetterholm - Photo by Steve Haskin
We’ve procrastinated long enough in regard to selections, so here are some ideas to play with. It doesn’t take a handicapping genius to realize the top four – I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, Went the Day Well, and Creative Cause – the 1,2,4,5 finishers in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) – are the dominant horses in here and could very well occupy the first four placings. That is the safe play for sure.
I’ll Have Another, as we have mentioned with great enthusiasm, has been a galloping terror, tearing around there every morning, while just gliding over the surface. He looks good physically and there’s nothing to indicate he won’t run another huge race on Saturday. He was feeling so good this morning he tried to rear after coming off the track.
Bodemeister’s coat looks good, with some dapples starting to peak out on his hind quarters. He’s also held his flesh well. We just haven’t seen too much from him on the track, mainly because his gallops appear to have no bearing on how he runs and works. It seems the faster he goes the better he looks.
Went the Day has really held his flesh well, has done everything in a professional manner, and looks to be sitting on a huge race.
If there is one thing he has in common with Creative Cause it is both colts have apparently matured in recent weeks and have a great deal of upside still left. Creative Cause had a rough day schooling in the paddock at Churchill Downs, but was much better the following day. Yesterday, he schooled in the indoor paddock, which can get quite claustrophobic, and stood in the stall like an old cow, without turning a hair at any point. He was a perfect gentleman the whole time he was schooling, so you have to think that perhaps he’s finally getting his act together. He didn’t do much on the track this morning, galloping once around, and was bouncing coming off the track and all the way to the barn.
Creative Cause returns from schooling - Photo by Steve Haskin
Although we haven’t seen Tiger Walk on the track, we did see him grazing at Sagamore Farm and were impressed with his physical prowess. He’s a powerful colt, who could surprise a lot of people if he can get a good trip from the rail, especially with the addition of cheater blinkers, which he wore in his sharp half-mile work last week.
Daddy Nose Best, who we fell in love with at Churchill Downs, was a late addition to the field, and, frankly, we have no idea what to do with him this time. He still looks good and schooled beautifully as usual, but who knows? He certainly wasn’t disgraced beating half the field in the Derby.
Daddy Nose Best schooling - Photo by Steve Haskin
Cozzetti, as we mentioned yesterday, is quite an eyeful. He didn’t have much of a gallop this morning, so there are no raves in that department. But we’ve never seen him gallop before, so it’s hard to judge anything off one gallop.
Teeth of the Dog hasn’t even shipped down as of this writing, so all we can go by is seeing him in his stall at Fair Hill, and he is one handsome colt.
Optimizer looks good physically and just pretty much goes about his business without raising any eyebrows.
As anyone who frequents this space regularly should know, I’ve been high on Creative Cause all year and have had him No. 1 on Derby Dozen almost every week since January. It is therefore natural to assume that if we abandon him now, it makes him a lock. So we’re going to give him another chance, even though the Belmont Stakes looks to be the race that is meant for him. In any event, we’re going to include him all almost all exotics, and feel he is going to be the forgotten horse.
Creative Cause - Photo by Steve Haskin
Mike Harrington eyes Creative Cause - Photo by Steve Haskin
Went the Day Well is going to get a good deal of action and deservedly so, considering the horrible trip he had in the Derby and the fact that he’s just now coming into his own and turning into a real racehorse. So, these would be our two win bets at the price and be included in the exotics.
Went the Day Well - Photo by Steve Haskin
Now, if you wish to break away from the Fab Four and throw in a bomb or two to complete exotics, the feeling here is that Tiger Walk is going to show a great deal of improvement off his recent races. And we wouldn’t be shocked to see Zetterholm possibly pick up a piece of it, considering he’s been here longer than anyone other than I’ll Have Another, has a big closing kick, and looks good physically. And we keep thinking about Icabad Crane, another New York-bred, who managed to finish third behind Big Brown in the 2008 Preakness. Zetterholm’s trainer Rick Dutrow, whose decision it was to run in the Preakness, doesn’t do anything on a whim and doesn’t run horses just for show.
We wish we could have seen more of Teeth of the Dog to get a better feel for him. If he runs big it won’t be a surprise, considering how good he looked in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), but we can’t go any deeper than the six mentioned. We could, however, put him in one of the exotics instead of Zetterholm just in case.
But that aside, it would be Creative Cause and Went the Day Well for win and play them in the exotics with I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, Tiger Walk, and Zetterholm. If you don't want to stretch it that far, Tiger Walk is our key longshot to get a piece of it. And we like Ramon Dominguez on him, especially breaking from the rail. When it comes to Teeth of the Dog and Daddy Nose Best, we have to lean toward Daddy Nose Best as a substitute exotics play, mainly because we know the horse so much better of the two. In fact, for a minimal wager, like 50 cents, you can always box the Derby starters and follow the historical path. That could actually be the smart bet, and this way you don't have to give it much thought.
All we have to do now is come up with the right combination in the trifectas. But betting strategy has never been one of our strong points, so we’ll probably mess it up as usual.