Two weeks ago, J. Paul Reddam's I'll Have Another ran down pacesetter Bodemeister to take the Kentucky Derby under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, I'll Have Another took on that pacesetting rival in the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes and gutted out a neck victory to take the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico.
The front-running Bodemeister took command straightaway and set more reasonable fractions of :23 3/5, :47 3/5, 1:11 3/5 and 1:36 3/5 this time around than what he did in the Derby. Jockey Mario Gutierrez settled I'll Have Another in behind and to the outside as Creative Cause kept pace with Bodemeister on the backstretch.
Bodemeister, Creative Cause and I'll Have Another swung around the turn in tandem, but the gray Creative Cause couldn't keep pace as his two rivals faced off yet again. Bodemeister held the advantage for much of the stretch run, but I'll Have Another kept inching closer and just got up in the shadow of the wire to finish 1 3/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:55 4/5.
The exciting rematch was witnessed by a record crowd of 121,309 at Pimlico, edging the 2005 Preakness when 121,263 packed Old Hilltop. The 13-race Thoroughbred card generated an all-sources handle of $80,463,005. The handle ranked as the sixth highest for Pimlico's signature day.
"The numbers say it all. We had a tremendous event," Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas stated.
It's now on to the Belmont Stakes in New York for the Doug O'Neill-trained I'll Have Another, who cost just $35,000 when purchased by O'Neill's brother Dennis at the 2011 OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. The colt will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978.
"I'm just numb," Doug O'Neill said. "I could see him and I felt like he was coming, but you never want to expect that he's going to be in front. I saw him coming. It seemed like the stretch never ends. Usually you want it to end. Incredible.
"Just absolutely exciting," O'Neill added in regards to winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown. "It's what it's all about. Those are the kind of races you hate to lose. But when you win those kind of races, you always feel like you have a chance the whole race. Then you're yelling at the top of your lungs. Then to see a horse in front at the wire, there is no better feeling. It's incredible."
"I haven't thought past today," Reddam admitted when asked about going for the Triple Crown in an NBC post-race interview. "I just can't imagine it. Hopefully the horse is doing well out of the race. It's going to get crazy."
I'll Have Another paid $8.40, $3.80 and $2.80 as the 3-1 second choice to move his record to 7-5-1-0. The chestnut colt boosted his earnings to $2,693,600 with the winner's share of the $1 million purse.
Bodemeister reputed himself well in second as the 8-5 favorite, and it was another 8 3/4 lengths back to Creative Cause in third.
"It's one of those things where it's good for the sport. It's good for the Belmont. It's tough," trainer Bob Baffert admitted about Bodemeister's loss. "I felt really good about where he was. He looked like he was traveling nicely down the backside and coming to the three-eighths pole, he just sat on him. The fractions were more reasonable today, so turning for home I really thought he was going to do it. He just got a little late there at the end.
"It was a good horse race. I really can't complain. We didn't win it, but my horse ran his race.
"The winner's a good horse. He'll get the respect now that he deserves," Baffert added. "The California horses are really tough. They ran 1-2-3. I'm proud that as a trainer my horse showed up and he ran his race. He just got beat."
"I thought I put him away, but (I'll Have Another) reached up and got us with three strides," said Bodemeister's jockey, Mike Smith. "Two great horses and I give them all the credit for what they did."
Zetterholm rounded out the superfecta three lengths farther back, while Teeth of the Dog, Optimizer, Cozzetti, Tiger Walk, Daddy Nose Best, Went the Day Well and Pretension completing the order under the wire.
"We're happy," trainer Richard Dutrow said of Zetterholm's fourth-place run. "He's not supposed to beat the top two, so we are really pleased with the way he ran today."
"He ran a huge race," jockey Junior Alvarado said of Zetterholm's performance. "He was there and was coming from behind. We were almost last and when I asked him, he started to pick it up."
I'll Have Another is following in the illustrious hoofsteps of fellow California-based Sunday Silence, who captured the Grade I Santa Anita Derby en route to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness over Easy Goer. Those two put on a show in the 1989 Preakness similar to I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, with Sunday Silence just getting the nose win over his chestnut rival.
In the Belmont Stakes, though, Sunday Silence fell short as the 1 1/2-mile distance of the "Test of the Champion" proved too far. I'll Have Another has thus far proven capable of finding more as the distances have increased and could complete one of the toughest challenges in American sports by adding the Belmont to his resume on June 9.
I'll Have Another began his career last July at Hollywood Park, breaking his maiden on the synthetic Cushion Track by three parts of a length. He followed up with a second while making his stakes debut in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes on Del Mar's all-weather Polytrack, then shipped cross-country to New York to try a conventional dirt track in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. The Flower Alley colt was unable to challenge that day after running wide throughout, ending up sixth, and called it a campaign for his juvenile season.
I'll Have Another returned five months later to take the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita and is now undefeated this year from four total starts. After the Lewis came a nose win in the Santa Anita Derby, and the chestnut colt overhauled Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby to win that classic event by 1 1/2 lengths.
Bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, I'll Have Another is out of the winning Arch mare Arch's Gal Edith and comes from the family of Grade I winners Roanoke and Into Mischief. He counts as his fifth dam the influential matron Patelin, ancestress of champion Pleasant Stage and such Grade I winners as A Phenomenon, Seattle Meteor, Pillaster and Class Play.