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Friday, May 18, 2012
Predictability

By Amanda Duckworth
Special to ESPN.com

After the constant insanity of Kentucky Derby week, there is something almost comforting about the predictability found within the days leading up to the Preakness Stakes.

Every year, a handful of horses who performed admirably for their connections in the Derby make their way to Baltimore to compete in the second leg of racing's Triple Crown. A few new shooters will join the fray, and everybody waits to see what happens next.

The Preakness is often kind to horses expected to run well, and almost everyone will tell you this edition should be no different.

The horses are all stabled near each other, groups of interested locals tour the backside, and we debate if the Derby winner can do it again.

While watching the Budweiser Clydesdales stretch their legs Friday morning in preparation for a Preakness day appearance, a gentleman standing next to me expressed his appreciation for the gentle giants.

We started chatting, and it turns out he is Carlos Martin, who trains stakes winner Promise Me a Cat. He has been enjoying the fact that his almost-black filly happens to be stabled next to the handsome gray Preakness entrant Creative Cause. We agreed that it would be ironic if one day the pair had a foal together.

Inevitably, conversations such as this one turn to thoughts and feelings about the big race. Carlos voiced his opinion that a horse who ran in the Derby is going to win the Preakness, and I doubt many would argue he is wrong. I know I wouldn't.

The Preakness is often kind to horses expected to run well, and almost everyone will tell you this edition should be no different.

In some years, one of the newcomers is intriguing for various reasons. Maybe they weren't 100 percent healthy in time for the Derby, maybe they were too inexperienced, or maybe their connections felt the race was a touch too far.

This is not one of those years.

Four of the top five finishers in the Derby will be lining up on Saturday, and the race will have to totally fall apart for one of them not to take home the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

The morning line favorite, Bodemeister, ran a heck of a race while finishing second at Churchill. It is understandable why so many believe that Saturday's Preakness is the talented colt's race to lose.

In many ways, he is similar to 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, who ran third in the Derby before going on to two Horse of the Year championships. Curlin won the Preakness by running down Street Sense, who was victorious in the Run for the Roses.

Leading up to the Kentucky Derby, both Curlin and Bodemeister showed immense ability when they put on shows in the Arkansas Derby. Curlin won by 10 lengths, while Bodemeister took the same contest by 9 lengths five years later.

History, however, said they did not have enough experience to wear the roses. Neither colt ran as a 2-year-old, and it has now been 130 years since a horse who began his career at age 3 won the Kentucky Derby.

If Bodemeister is truly worthy of being compared to Curlin and doesn't regress, it is hard to deny his chances in the Preakness.

If Bodemeister is truly worthy of being compared to Curlin and doesn't regress, it is hard to deny his chances in the Preakness. It is a shorter distance than the Derby, the front-running colt should be able to set a comfortable pace, and it is up to everyone else to catch him.

That said, I firmly believe I'll Have Another is set to give him a run for his money, and it doesn't bother me that the Derby winner was not set as the Preakness favorite. After all, in six career starts, he has never gone off as the betting public's choice. In four of those races, he rewarded his believers by crossing the wire in front anyway.

I'll Have Another may not garner respect before the race, but more times than not, he earns it after the fact. Furthermore, he proved he can outgut another horse when he won the Santa Anita Derby by a nose over Creative Cause, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

I have long been a fan of Creative Cause, but I am finally coming to terms with the fact that lately the colt doesn't actually win all that much. In Grade 1 races, he has one victory, two seconds, a third and a fifth from five attempts. He tries hard and should never be discounted, but perhaps isn't for straight win bets.

The other talking horse of the week has been Went the Day Well. He came flying to finish fourth in the Derby, and his connections are familiar with how the Triple Crown works. Their colt Animal Kingdom won last year's Derby before finishing a game second in the Preakness. Both he and Creative Cause could be sitting on a big one.

However, as long as Bodemeister isn't allowed to skip away too far in front of the field, I envision he and I'll Have Another duking it out to the wire while the others battle for third place. Which horse wins?

Tune in Saturday to find out.

Amanda Duckworth is a freelance journalist who lives in Lexington, Ky. Write to her at amanda.duckworth@ymail.com.