Jockey Mario Gutierrez, left, aboard, I'll Have Another, reacts after crossing the finish line in front of Bodemeister, right, ridden by Mike E. Smith, to win the 137th Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 19, 2012, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
ONE RACE TO GO
Eleven horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but lost in the Belmont Stakes since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978. Belmont
Year Horse finish
1979 Spectacular Bid 3rd
1981 Pleasant Colony 3rd
1987 Alysheba 4th
1989 Sunday Silence 2nd
1997 Silver Charm 2nd
1998 Real Quiet 2nd
Year Horse finish
1999 Charismatic 3rd
2002 War Emblem 8th
2003 Funny Cide 3rd
2004 Smarty Jones 2nd
2008 Big Brown DNF
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:35PM
BALTIMORE — I’ll Have Another waited a little longer to catch Bodemeister in the stretch this time, and now that he has done it twice, it’s time for a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes.
With a breathtaking closing rush, the smooth-striding colt won the Preakness Stakes by a neck at Pimlico Race Course on a sunny Saturday, a nail-biter of a finish that topped his win two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.
The race unfolded the same way as the Derby, with the speedy Bodemeister moving to the lead under Mike Smith, with I’ll Have Another hanging back in fourth in the 11-horse field. The early fractions were slower than the Derby, but when it came time for Bodemeister to hang on, I’ll Have Another found another gear under young jockey Mario Gutierrez and ran down trainer Bob Baffert’s horse in the shadow of the wire.
“We’re thinking Triple Crown, baby,” an elated trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He’s a special horse. We’ll see how he comes out of it, and if he comes out of it in good shape, we’re heading to New York, baby.”
It has been 34 years since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and became the 11th and most recent Triple Crown champion. Since then, 11 horses have won the first two legs only to come up short in the Belmont. The most recent try came in 2008, when Big Brown was pulled up around the turn for home and did not finish. Before that, Smarty Jones was run down in the last 70 yards by Birdstone in the 2004 Belmont.
With the two victories thrusting the colorful and controversial O’Neill squarely into the limelight, scrutiny is sure to intensify about his violations for giving his horses improper drugs. He was fined $1,000 and suspended 15 days in one incident. He’s contesting another.
“We know we play by the rules,” O’Neill said. “It’s all about the horse, and we’re just going to focus on the horse.”
If margins are an indication, perhaps I’ll Have Another has a Triple Crown in his future. Affirmed won the Derby by the identical 1½ lengths over Alydar, then beat his rival by the same neck margin in the Preakness.
“I didn’t feel confident we were going to get there until 10 yards from the wire,” owner J. Paul Reddam said.
I’ll Have Another, sent off as the second choice at 3-1 over 8-5 favorite Bodemeister, covered the 13/16 miles in 1:55.94. The winner returned $8.40, $3.80 and $2.80. Bodemeister returned $3.20 and $2.80, and Creative Cause paid $3.60 to show.
Creative Cause was third, 8¾ lengths behind hard-luck runner-up Bodemeister, followed by Zetterholm, Teeth of the Dog, Optimizer, Cozzetti, Tiger Walk, Daddy Nose Best, Went the Day Well and Pretension.
Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner, thought his colt — named for his 7-year-old son, Bode — could pull off the win.
“I felt really good about where he was,” Baffert said. “I really thought he was going to do it. The winner is a good horse. He should get the respect now that he deserves.”
The chestnut colt has never been favored in any of his seven races but has won five of them along with $2,693,600 after he was purchased by Reddam for $35,000 on the advice of O’Neill’s brother, Dennis.