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HORSE RACING: I’ll Have Another Wins Preakness, Aims For Triple Crown
BALTIMORE – Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez stood together in the paddock at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, the anxiety building steadily as post time for the Preakness Stakes drew near.
O’Neill, the easygoing trainer, assumed the pressure had to be building on the young jockey. The two had guided I’ll Have Another to one of the more thrilling finishes in Kentucky Derby history two weeks ago, upsetting favorite Bodemeister on the final stretch, and the burden that follows can be difficult for anyone, let alone someone so inexperienced, to handle.
Gutierrez, though, wanted no part of O’Neill’s good-natured blustering.
“Now, if Bodemeister goes real easy, you want me to press him, right?’ Gutierrez said.
O’Neal gave in.
“Mario, you know the horse,” O’Neill replied. “Just ride him to the best of your ability.”
Gutierrez did, and in a race eerily reminiscent of what happened at Churchill Downs, Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another ran down their main competition, edging Bodemeister by a neck to keep alive a chance at the first Triple Crown since 1978.
The horse, which opened at 5-2 odds and went off at 3-1, paid $8.40, $3.20 and $2.80 after winning in 1:55.94, the fourth to do so in the No. 9 spot. Bodemeister, the favorite, opened at 8-5, was 2-1 at post time and paid $3.20 and $2.80, while third-place Creative Cause paid $3.60.
Bodemeister took the lead into the first turn as I’ll Have Another kept stride three lengths back, and it wasn’t until after the final turn and the final 350 yards of the 1 3/16-mile track that Gutierrez pushed his horse.
He first overcame Creative Cause before easing ahead with no more than 20 yards remaining, drawing a roar from a record crowd of 121,309 that sat through a near-perfect day with clear skies and a temperature near 80.
“It’s a great feeling when you’re riding a horse and it’s giving you 100 percent,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a great feeling. He’s an amazing horse.”
J. Paul Reddam, who purchased the horse for $35,000, said it wasn’t until those final 20 yards that he knew Gutierrez had the victory in hand.
“I think today went at what I would call a reasonable pace,” said Reddam, who named the horse after his typical response when his wife, Zillah, makes cookies. “He didn’t have trouble, but he was certainly wide in the first turn. He shows that he’s the real deal. He’s a real race horse. He gutted it out.”
Gutierrez, an unproven jockey from Veracruz, Mexico who had been racing in Vancouver, first rode I’ll Have Another to victory at the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in California in February before following up with a victory at the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Still, the focus was on Bodemeister, jockey Mike Smith and trainer Bob Baffert, with the common thought that the colt’s late collapse two weeks ago wouldn’t happen at Pimlico, a shorter track. It did.
“It just got a little late there at the end, and the winner’s a good horse,” Baffert said. “It was a good horse race. I really can’t complain.”
Reddam’s horse will head to Belmont Park this morning to prepare for June 9, when it will attempt to be the first since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown 34 years ago.
Could they have yet another?
“Look, there are a lot of horses that have been in this position the last 15 years, and it didn’t happen for them,” said Reddam, with the most recent being Big Brown in 2008. “We’re only two-thirds there, right? We’ve got to be cool and try to block everything out.
“When we get to the Belmont, just ride the race, and if it happens, it happens.”
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