Bodemeister, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, has been made the 8-5 morning line favorite for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday and will break from post 7.
Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another was made the 5-2 second choice. He breaks from post 9 in the field of 11 entered for the Preakness. Four of the top five finishers in the Derby are in the field. Six Derby contestants were entered for the second jewel of the Triple Crown with five newcomers.
Post positions were drawn Wednesday night at Pimlico Race Course, which hosts the 1 3/16-mile event for 3-year-olds that was inaugurated in 1873. The field is the smallest since 2007, when Curlin beat Derby winner Street Sense in a nine-horse field.
A win would give I'll Have Another a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
With all the contenders drawing favorably in the relatively small field, there were few complaints from horsemen afterward.
Baffert was not present at the draw but later said, "I think it's a good post. With him, anything in the middle would have been fine. In the Preakness, you just don't want to be stuck down on the inside, where you have to use your horse a little bit.
"The Derby winner drew well also. Everybody is in a good post."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, also looking for his sixth Preakness win, has 30-1 shot Optimizer in the field. Lukas' most recent Preakness win came in 1999 with Charismatic.
Bodemeister set one of the quickest tempos in Kentucky Derby history (:22.32, :45.39, 1:09.80 for the first six furlongs) last Saturday with Mike Smith aboard and led by three lengths in the stretch. But he could not fend off the determined challenge from 15-1 shot I'll Have Another, who reeled in the leader under little known jockey Mario Gutierrez near the sixteenth pole and drew clear for a 1 1/2-length triumph.
The Southern California-based colts figure to dominate the Preakness wagering, though strong support can also be expected for Went the Day Well and Creative Cause, listed as 6-1 co-third choices on Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli's morning line.
Bodemeister is expected to have a little easier time of it on the front end this time with less early speed in the lineup on a track that is considered kinder to front-runners than Churchill Downs. The early Preakness choice's biggest win came in the Arkansas Derby April 14 in front-running style by 9 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn Park for owners Zayat Stables and Mike and Tiffany Moreno.
Unraced at 2, the leggy bay colt by Empire Maker is making his sixth start of the year in the Preakness. He has two wins and three seconds.
Reddam Racing's I'll Have Another never has been favored in his six-race career for trainer Doug O'Neill, winning four. He is unbeaten in three tries in 2012, taking the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February by 2 3/4 lengths at 43-1 odds before gutting out a nose victory at 4-1 over Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7. The son of Flower Alley had to overcome post 19 to claim victory in the Kentucky Derby.
The chestnut, though not very big, possesses a long fluid stride and has the speed to stay in a good stalking position behind Bodemeister, who should be on his inside. I'll Have Another was forwardly placed in the 20-horse Derby field and showed the tactical ability to avoid trouble while advancing into position to challenge at the quarter pole. Four wide into the stretch, he showed tremendous stamina in pulling away late.
"I like the fact that [being near the outside post in post 9] if Bodemeister is absolutely flying, we don't have to use our horse," O'Neill said. "It is more in Bodemeister and Mike Smith's hands to set the pace. If, for whatever reason, he breaks slow or decides not to go, we'll take the lead and take it from there. Any time you talk to a rider on a horse that has got some tactical speed, they love being outside the speed horses. Mario [Guitierrez] is going to be really happy when he finds out what we drew."
O'Neill had no complaint about being second choice behind a horse I'll Have Another defeated two weeks earlier.
"Bob Baffert has won five of these and I have never run a horse here, so I totally respect that," O'Neill said. "A horse like Bodemeister, if he were to get loose on the lead going slow, he will be very tough to beat. But that won't happen."
Went the Day Well ran a good closing fourth in the Derby, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths in spite of a rough start and being seven wide at the quarter pole. Owner Barry Irwin of Team Valor International, winner of the 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom, is understandably hoping for a clean trip for his Vinery Spiral Stakes winner.
"When he ran fourth [Kentucky Derby], I was not disappointed," Irwin said. "Any time your horse puts in a big run, you feel good. I watched the replay and thought he could have run better. But when I watched the overhead blimp shot and saw how he finished, I wanted to throw up because I knew that if he broke cleanly he could have won that race."
Went the Day Well drew post 5. As far as the running for the Preakness, Irwin said the "onus is on [I'll Have Another] to go after Bodemeister. If both of those things happen and my horse breaks cleanly, hopefully we will be the beneficiary."
John Velazquez is aboard the son of Proud Citizen for trainer Graham Motion.
In post 6 is Creative Cause for owner Heinz Steinmann. The Giant's Causeway colt was fifth in the Derby, three lengths behind the winner while also racing extremely wide on the far turn. Winner of the Norfolk Stakes at 2, the gray/roan colt is seeking his first win since Santa Anita's San Felipe Stakes March 10.
"At the hundred-yard mark [of the Derby] he was third and I thought he was going to run third," said trainer Mike Harrington of Creative Cause. "But two horses ran past him in the last 100 yards. He was tired the first few days [after Derby] but the last couple of days he has been his old self."
Speaking of Bodemeister, he said: "He run a good race, but he beat my horse less than three lengths and my horse ran 90 feet, or something like that, further than he did. He will the favorite but that doesn't mean he's invincible."
Also coming out of the Derby are Daddy Nose Best (12-1), who was 10th for trainer Steve Asmussen, and the Lukas-conditioned Optimizer, who finished 11th. Daddy Nose Best, owned by Cathy and Bob Zollars, will be reunited with Julien Leparoux for the Preakness. Leparoux won the El Camino Real Derby and Sunland Derby aboard the son of Scat Daddy. Bluegrass Hall's Optimizer also will have a new rider in Corey Nakatani.
J.W. Singer's Teeth of the Dog, third in the Wood Memorial in his most recent start April 7, is 15-1 on the morning line for trainer Michael Matz. The son of Bluegrass Cat was making his stakes debut in the Wood.
Tiger Walk drew the rail at 30-1 with Kent Desormeaux aboard for Sagamore Farm. The last horse to win the Preakness from the rail post was Tabasco Cat in 1994.
"It's not ideal," said farm general manager Tom Mullikin. "He's the worst drawing horse of all time. He's had seven starts and faced 57 horses. There have only been four on the outside. You can't control, so what are you going to do. It will be fine."
Other longshots in the field are Zetterholm (20-1), Cozzetti (30-1), and Pretension (30-1).
The field was narrowed by one May 16 following the withdrawal of Guyana Star Dweej from consideration. Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal said the son of Eddington grabbed a quarter.