Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'll Have Another Keeps Hopes Alive in Preakness

I'll Have Another alongside Lava Man
Photo by Julie June Stewart
He'd won the most prestigious race in the world, had worn the coveted garland of red roses before the Twin Spires, and had become the only horse with the chance to win the Triple Crown as the Preakness Stakes (GI) approached. Yet Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another did not receive the plethora of respect he deserved as the middle jewel of the Triple Crown grew closer. Derby runner-up, Bodemeister, was set as the morning line favorite due to his amazing performance in the Run for the Roses, leaving I'll Have Another as the second choice.

Breaking smoothly from the ninth gate under Mario Gutierrez before yet another record crowd (there was a record crowd at this year's Kentucky Derby as well), I'll Have Another chased after Bodemeister as Creative Cause, Pretension, and Went the Day Well also rushed toward the front. As Went the Day Well checked going into the first turn, I’ll Have Another went wide around the curve, settling in fourth. While Bodemeister set a much more relaxed pace than he did in the Kentucky Derby, I’ll Have Another remained relaxed on the outside in a stalking position as the eleven Thoroughbreds galloped down the Pimlico backstretch.

Inching closer as the field grew closer to the far turn, I’ll Have Another remained comfortable beneath Gutierrez. Stalking in third after a half in 47.68 seconds, I’ll Have Another set his sights on Bodemeister and Creative Cause as the horses entered the final curve. With urging from his calm, cool, and collected twenty-five-year-old rider, I’ll Have Another began to accelerate around the far turn.

For a large part of the homestretch, the race appeared to be reminiscent of last year’s Preakness, in which the speedy Shackleford led the way down the stretch as Derby winner Animal Kingdom charged on the outside, only to miss by a half-length. However, I’ll Have Another continued to dig in, displaying his brilliance and determination as he ran down the magnificent Bodemeister. Though their noses became even in an electrifying battle in the final yards, I’ll Have Another continued to mow down the Derby runner-up and proceeded to win by a neck. Notably, the top pair left third-place finisher, Creative Cause, nine lengths behind.

Yet again, I’ll Have Another galloped out tremendously. This certainly implies that the colt will relish even more ground, as does his pedigree, considering he is a grandson of Distorted Humor – who sired 2010 Belmont winner Drosselmeyer.

I'll Have Another is the first horse since Big Brown in 2008 to approach the Belmont Stakes (GI) with a chance to win the Triple Crown, a feat that has not been accomplished since Affirmed captured the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in 1978.

Interestingly, I'll Have Another shares many parallels with Affirmed. Both won the Santa Anita Derby (GI) en route to their Triple Crown journeys. Furthermore, both chestnut colts have young, rather unseasoned jockeys. In addition, both challenged a rival in the prestigious series. Affirmed's rivalry with Alydar is considered the greatest horse racing rivalry to ever exist, whereas I'll Have Another battled Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness. Whether the two will continue that rivalry in the Belmont remains to be seen, but it is eerie how similar I'll Have Another's Triple Crown journey has been to Affirmed's.

Needless to say, the industry undoubtedly hopes that I'll Have Another will proceed to be similar to Affirmed. If he does, he will end the drought that the sport desperately needs to see conclude. And with four wins in just as many starts this year, I'll Have Another just may have forgotten how to lose.

Since I’ll Have Another was one of my featured “Derby Hopefuls,” you can read more about him here.

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