Early Look at the 2012 Preakness Stakes Field
by Trevor Whenham - 5/8/2012
That wasn’t a perfect Kentucky Derby, but it was more satisfying than the last few have been. It featured a flawless ride by a totally unheralded rider who had only won 14 races all year to win, and the most heroic performance a horse may have ever shown in defeat by Bodemeister.
Now all eyes are pointed at the second leg of the Triple Crown. Can I’ll Have Another continue his winning ways and head to New York with a shot at history? Or can Bodemeister ride his incredible talent to the win? At this point both horses are being pointed at the Preakness, and the Derby winner is already in Baltimore. They could be joined by as many as seven other Derby runners, and a full field of 14 seems likely for the Preakness.
Here’s a very early look at how the 2012 Preakness Stakes field is shaping up:
I’ll Have Another - The winner came out of the race healthy and is ready to go. He ran a very light schedule this spring — just two prep races very well spaced out — so he should be fresh and ready to run. Any doubts that he is good enough to compete at this level have been erased, and he’ll be a big factor here.
Bodemeister - The speedster hasn’t been confirmed for the Preakness, but he came out of the Derby well and is widely expected to race again. If he is in the Preakness Stakes field then he is almost certain to be the favorite, and the slightly shorter distance and smaller field should set up well for him — especially without the reckless speed of Trinniberg to contend with.
Dullahan - The third-place Derby finisher ran a respectable race, and he was able to benefit from the fast early pace to pick up the pieces late — though not as well as the winner did. The run wasn’t overly taxing for him, and he’ll be ready to run. He’ll need more speed early on to set up his ideal closing style because Bodemeister alone on the lead will be tough to chase down.
Went The Day Well - The horse that shares the same connections as last year’s Derby champ, Animal Kingdom, quietly ran a nice race to finish fourth last weekend. He was able to stay out of trouble, and he still had some gas in the tank later on to move forward. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t overwhelmed by his performance, and I still have to question whether he is an elite runner. He benefited from circumstance, and will need similar luck to be a factor here.
Creative Cause - Most people — myself included — seemed to think that it would be the Santa Anita Derby runner-up that would be the Derby threat and not the winner. While that didn’t prove to be the case Creative Cause still ran a fine race, and he will still be a factor in the Preakness. He needs to take a step forward here, though, to prove that he is more than a bridesmaid in the highest-level races.
Liaison - It was hard to take the other Baffert horse seriously in the Derby owing to his outside gate and his lack of impressive accomplishments heading into the race. He may have exceeded expectations with a sixth-place finish, but he was never a real threat. Baffert seems determined to give him another shot, though I’m not convinced that he’d break through and win against this caliber of competition no matter how many chances he was given.
Union Rags - I’ll include this horse because he is still possible, but I would be surprised if he made it to Pimlico. He was not nearly as impressive as expected at the Derby — his seventh-place finish required a big effort after a terrible start — and it seems like he needs to regroup. He’s back at his training facility in Maryland, though, so he’s certainly close to Pimlico if he wants to give it a shot.
Hansen - The two year old champion’s Derby was a disaster. He looked uncomfortable, he appeared outclassed, and his ninth-place finish is flattering. That’s two very disappointing races in a row from him. His owner, Dr. Hansen, doesn’t lack for bravado, though, so the horse will be back for another shot here.
Optimizer - I have absolutely nothing but respect for D. Wayne Lukas — an all-time legend in the game. I have no idea what he saw in Optimizer that made him think he was a Derby horse, though, or what he saw in the 11th-place finish at Churchill that makes him think that the Preakness is a good idea.
The new faces - There are no shortage of new horses interested in running, though none that stand out as truly elite. Cozzetti was fourth in Bodemeister’s Arkansas Derby win. Atigun, the horse that finished fifth in that race, won in very impressive fashion early on the Derby card so that could prove to be a key race. Pretension and Brimstone Island were the top two finishers in the Canonero II — a Preakness prep race held at Pimlico on Derby day. Hierro and Paynter were first and second in the Derby Trial. The latter is another Baffert horse, so strategy would be a serious consideration if all three of his horses make the field. Teeth of the Dog and Tiger Walk were third and fourth, respectively, behind Gemologist and Alpha in the Wood Memorial.
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