Second Jewel for I’ll Have Another?

Yes vs. No in the Preakness Stakes

So here we are just one week away from the second leg of the Triple Crown. As the Preakness Stakes draws near and more contenders confirm their entry, the big lingering question continues to surface. Will the Kentucky Derby winner head to Belmont with a chance at immortality? It’s a question that is asked every year but the more that pass without a Triple Crown winner, the easier it has become to analyze why the Kentucky Derby winner will not be the next. That’s a good point but there are always counters to that arguement.          

After every Kentucky Derby there has always been and will always be those that are certain they just witnessed the next Triple Crown winner. The group is a mixture of horse racing enthusiasts and new fans that just boarded the Triple Crown train. Whether they’re convinced because they bet the derby winner or it’s been decided they were beat by a horse of destiny doesn’t matter, the excitement is unavoidable. But before that thrill reaches its peak, the 2nd jewel of the crown needs to be won. Without getting ahead of that conversation it might be a good idea to analyze our Kentucky Derby winner’s chances of scoring the Preakness Stakes 2 weeks later.

I’ll Have Another has a considerable amount of upside that favors his chances in the 1 3/16 Mile test but there are a couple of hurdles that will need to be cleared before the show picks up more steam en route to NYC. The first thing that everyone will be talking about is the drop in distance. He is a horse with a pedigree fit for longer distance races so shortening up in the Preakness will be heavily analyzed and rightfully so.

Drop in Distance: The last race is always thought of first. The Kentucky Derby was a beautiful trip that was so well calculated and managed that I’ll Have Another was without a doubt the best horse in the field. But when rewinding it’s easy to come to the conclusion that I’ll Have Another got by Bodemeister only because of the distance. If the race was anything less than 1 ¼ mile and it would have been a bear to get by Bode before the wire. Consequently if that race were to repeat itself at the Preakness Stakes then it will be too tough for him to win again.

Counter: Let’s rewind a little further back to the 1 1/16 Mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes. In his first race of 2012 I’ll Have Another showed he was capable of winning by using his tactical speed. He also proved he was very comfortable racing right behind the pace setter, Isn’t He Clever. Breaking out of the 6 post, I’ll Have Another moved in behind him and stayed within a length before pouncing on him at the top of the stretch and drawing away to win. Although the speed was slightly slower than the Kentucky Derby through the first half mile, the 6F split was much closer: 1:09.80 vs 1:10.52. What this says is that I’ll Have Another can challenge a Bodemeister out front. He will have to go back to an older strategy but since it has worked, ruining a wire to wire bid by stalking closer than he did in the derby is not out of the question.

Too Much Talent: It was discussed before the Kentucky Derby because it was true and it still hasn’t changed. This year’s Kentucky Derby field was deep and far more talented than any in recent memory. The post time odds alone proved that this was the case as Union Rags led the field of 20 at 5-1. So the race was wide open but not all of the top contenders can win. In order to win the Kentucky Derby it may seem like you have to get lucky with an outstanding break and clear path around the horn. In 2012, there were some good horses that got unlucky and no chance of compromising. If they didn’t got boxed, bumped or caught racing wide it would have been a totally different race. This time around however, a different yet talented colt catches a lucky break and will win.

Counter: Sometimes in sports it takes beating the best to become a legendary champion. Does Alydar v Affirmed ring a bell? Alydar is forever known as the greatest second best horse of all time. Would he have been 3-yrs-old during any other period outside of 1978 he could have been a Triple Crown champion himself. But as the story goes, it was 1978 and Affirmed made him finish in 2nd place in all 3 jewels. And let’s not forget about Sham in 1973 who finished directly behind Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Both of these Triple Crown stories are proof that heavy competition possibly draws the best performances out of a horse.

Outside of the two counter arguments there are a couple of other things that some tend to like about I’ll Have Another and his chances of winning the Preakness Stakes. Just like after his arrival at Churchill Downs Doug O’Neil has elected not to give I’ll Have Another a serious work over the track at Pimlico. Instead, he has again opted to train on gallops alone. The strategy may be because he wants to conserve as much energy as possible but keep his Derby winner fresh at the same time. The hope may also be to keep him anxious so that on race day he’ll know it and be ready to run without limitations.

Another final upside to his chances next weekend is that there haven’t been any hiccups so far. I’ll Have Another continues to eat well, gallop wonderfully and display a fantastic amount of energy. All are good signs that point towards a full recovery after the Kentucky Derby.

But there’s a reason the Preakness Stakes has only been won by the Kentucky Derby winner 10 times in the last 30 years; it’s tough to do. I’ll Have Another has a lot going for him and based on the analysis here, he’s got a good shot in the Preakness Stakes. It’s a test that will be hard but it’s getting more exciting with Preakness Week on the horizon.

Written by: Little Brink


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