Reprinted with permission from www.drf.com
By David Grening
Special to VegasInsider.com
Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another jogged around a muddy track at Pimlico on Wednesday under exercise rider Johnny Garcia.Though it was only a jog, Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister apparently made quite the impression on his first day back to the track Wednesday at Churchill Downs, enough to think that he is well on his way to making a start in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 19.
“Bode super-sharp on track today … Amazing horse,” is what trainer Bob Baffert texted to owner Ahmed Zayat early Wednesday morning after Bodemeister jogged a mile at Churchill.
Baffert has said that he won’t make a firm decision on whether Bodemeister would run in the Preakness until he sees the horse in person over the weekend. On Wednesday, Zayat said he has mixed emotions about running the horse back in two weeks off such a grueling effort in the Derby. Bodemeister’s fractions for the opening quarter, half-mile, and six furlongs were among the top five ever recorded in the 138-year history of the Derby. Those fractions took a toll late as he was passed in deep stretch by I’ll Have Another.
Zayat said that in addition to Baffert he heard from other horsemen based at Churchill how well Bodemeister looked on the track Wednesday. Zayat said horsemen commented on his colt’s demeanor, his coat, and how much weight he carried during his appearance on track.
“Obviously, he’s doing really, really well,” Zayat said. “I think the prudent thing is to wait and see how he continues to progress. I’ll personally fly in to watch him train and look at his next work as Baffert is going to do then we’ll have to decide then. If you look at the horse right now he’s telling me he wants to run. If you look at my heart, I’m scared. But he deserves to run also.”
Last year, Zayat was in a similar situation with Nehro, who finished a late-running second to Animal Kingdom in Derby. Zayat and trainer Steve Asmussen opted to skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont, believing Nehro would relish the 1 1/2-mile distance. The track came up sloppy that day, and Nehro came out of his fourth-place finish with an ankle chip that sidelined him the remainder of the year.
Whereas Nehro was more of a grinder, Bodemeister’s running style is not one that suggests he necessarily wants 1 1/2 miles though he is the son of 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker.
“We haven’t made that decision,” Zayat said. “But what you said is absolutely valid. … Who knows what we’re sitting on? He’s a very nice horse. Is he a brilliant horse? He needs to do more.”
Also at Churchill on Wednesday, Derby third-place finisher Dullahan went back to the track and jogged two miles, according to trainer Dale Romans.
Romans said the horse “looks good” but said owner Jerry Crawford would make the decision whether to run in the Preakness or await the Belmont.
At Pimlico, Derby winner I’ll Have Another jogged once around a muddy Pimlico track under exercise rider Johnny Garcia on his first day to the track since winning the Derby.
Jack Sisterson, the assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill, said that I’ll Have Another’s energy level is “fantastic.”
“As soon as he knew he was going back to the track, he was full of energy,” Sisterson said. “It’s as if he’s never had a race. He’s doing fantastic.”
O’Neill was expected to be at Pimlico on Thursday to begin supervising I’ll Have Another’s training.
At Hollywood Park, Derby fifth-place finisher Creative Cause jogged seven furlongs and galloped seven furlongs.
“He was more enthusiastic than I thought he’d be,” trainer Mike Harrington said.
Harrington said that Creative Cause may not have a workout in coming days, just a series of “strong gallops.”
“We’ll have to see how much energy he has,” Harrington said. “I’m pretty happy with his weight. I don’t think he’s lost too much weight in this whole deal. He’s eating.”
At the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Derby fourth-place finisher Went the Day Well galloped in a field near trainer Graham Motion’s barn.
Motion said he planned to ship Went the Day Well to Pimlico the early part of next week in order to get the horse a few gallops over the track.
“The track was so different last year than I expected, it’ll benefit him to have the experience,” said Motion, who finished second in last year’s Preakness with Derby winner Animal Kingdom. “It was pretty deep, which is pretty different than it had been.”
In other Preakness news:
Teeth of the Dog, third in the Wood Memorial, and the New York-bred stakes winner Zetterholm were both entered in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, though their connections would prefer to run in the Preakness if they can get in.
The Preakness is limited to 14 runners, plus two also-eligibles. As of Wednesday, there were 17 horses under consideration for the race.
Teeth of the Dog has $100,000 in non-restricted stakes earnings and $136,450 in career earnings, which put him ahead of most of the others looking to get in.
As of Wednesday, it would appear Zetterholm could crack the Preakness field, pending some unexpected starters.
– additional reporting by Steve Andersen