This time, Bob Baffert intends to justify the odds.
Despite finishing second in the Derby, Bodemeister was installed as the 8-5 favorite for Saturday’s second leg of the Triple Crown. The colt, trained by Baffert, set the pace at Churchill Downs before being overtaken in the stretch by I’ll Have Another, who won by 1½ lengths.
I’ll Have Another is the second-favorite in the Preakness at 5-2.
Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner, was delighted to receive the No. 7 post in the 11-horse field.
“With (Bodemeister), anything in the middle would be fine,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “With the Preakness, you just don’t want to be stuck on the inside where you have to use your horse a little bit. The Derby winner drew really well, also.”
I’ll Have Another will start from the No. 9 post. The colt won the Derby out of the No. 19 post and will again be ridden by Mario Gutierrez.
“Anything with a nine in it, we feel very good about. We’re cool with it,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We talked about the possibility of being inside Bodemeister and really forcing our hand to push him early. Now it’s in Mario’s hands to still kind of push Bode, but we’ll be on the outside of him.”
Funny Cide was last to win from No. 9 in 2003. Lookin At Lucky was last to win from No. 7 in 2010.
Asked about having the second-favorite in the field despite winning the Derby, O’Neill said, “Bob Baffert has won five of these. I’ve never run a horse here. I totally respect that. I just hope anyone who bets Bodemeister is regretting it Saturday night.”
A victory would give I’ll Have Another the chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“I’m confident,” O’Neill said. “You never know. But as long as we continue to train like our horse is training, we won’t be that far off Bodemeister. If anything Bodemeister might be behind us early.”
The field is the smallest since 2007, when Curlin beat Derby winner Street Sense in a nine-horse field.
Creative Cause trainer Mike Harrington, whose horse finished fifth in the Derby, was delighted with the No. 6 post.
“I don’t think it affects our running style,” Harrington said. “With 11 in there, post position is not nearly as important as the Derby. The middle is great.”