BALTIMORE, 05-19-12 – Faster than you can say, “Affirmed versus Alydar”, the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes became an instant classic as I’ll Have Another moved one step closer to a Triple Crown sweep Saturday at Pimlico Race Course with a thrilling narrow victory over a tenacious Bodemeister.
Reddam Racing LLC’s 3-year-old colt, who defeated Bodemeister by 1½ lengths to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier, was pushed to the limit to prevail by a neck over the Bob Baffert-trained pacesetter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
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 attendance, which included InfieldFest partygoers who were treated to concerts by six bands, featured headliners Maroon 5 and Whiz Khalifa, as well as a National Volleyball League tournament with Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.
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 said. “We knew in 2009 when we changed the landscape of the infield it would take three or four years to get to where we needed to get, and we are back. The crowd out there now is in the 21-35 group. They’re here to have a good time, not to cause mayhem. First-rate entertainment and world class racing is a winning combination.”
Saddled by Doug O’Neill, I’ll Have Another, who received a flawless ride from Mario Gutierrez to win his fourth straight race this year without defeat, is now eligible to become the 12th Triple Crown champion in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9.
Bodemeister, the 8-5 favorite who is trained by five-time Preakness-winning trainer Bob Baffert, set the pace for most of the 1 3/16-mile spring classic under jockey Mike Smith, only to be caught in the shadow of the finish line by the Derby winner. I’ll Have Another, who was clocked in 1:55.90 under fair skies, returned $8.40 to win as the 3-1 second choice in the field of 11.
Bodemeister finished 8 ¾ lengths clear of third-place finisher Creative Cause, the 6-1 fourth choice ridden by Joel Rosario. Zetterholm finished fourth, another three lengths back.
I’ll Have Another settled off the early pace set by Bodemeister, racing on the outside in fourth place around the first turn and along the backstretch. The son of Flower Alley steadily advanced to third on the turn for home, before Gutierrez saved ground while slipping inside a tiring Creative Cause on the turn into the stretch in pursuit of Bodemeister, who opened a three-length lead in mid-stretch. I’ll Have Another took out after the leader and gradually stuck out his neck at the wire to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive.
In the 1 ½-mile Belmont, the $35,000 purchase by J. Paul Reddam has the opportunity to join Triple Crown champions Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).