By Brian Monzo
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The 2012 Preakness Stakes is all but here, the 137th running of the second jewel of the prestigious Triple Crown. All eyes at Pimlico Racetrack in Maryland will be on Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, as he looks to be the first horse since Big Brown in 2008 to win both the Derby and the Preakness.

The field for the Preakness is only 11, a far cry for the 20 contenders at Churchill Downs, including six horses that ran in the Derby.  Many expect this to be a two-horse race with Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another — however, I do not.

We start with the Derby winner, I’ll Have Another. Out of the 19th post, he had a perfect run by jockey Mario Gutierrez. He sat a few lengths off the lead and down the final stretch was able to catch the tiring Bodemeister. This time, he has the No. 9 post position and will try and sit in the same slot. The issue I have with him here is that there isn’t as much track and if Bodemeister has the lead down the stretch, I’m not sure I’ll Have Another will be able to catch him this time.

Bob Baffert’s Bodemeister is likely to be the favorite at post time. This race is a tad shorter then the Derby, at a mile and 3/16. Speed has a history of winning the Preakness, as the front-running Shackleford was able to win it last year. Bodemeister ran a dominant Derby, and showed tremendous grit and heart, and when the other speed horses (Hansen, Trinniberg) fell back, he stayed at the lead. Because of the speed he was challenged by, he wasted a ton of energy early. He will not have that kind of challenge here. Illinois Derby runner Pretension shows early speed, but should not effect Bodemeister in the least. The only thing that hurts him is that he is due for a letdown, and it could happen here. However, expect Bodemeister to go off in the 9/5 range as the favorite.

Went The Day Well, ridden by John Velazquez and trained by Graham Motion can be heard from the late if he makes his move at the right time. He finished fourth in the Derby, and his closing kick was scary fast. What intrigues me here is that his connections could have skipped the Preakness and went right to the Belmont Stakes next month. They didn’t, leading me to believe they are very confident in this spot. He adds blinkers for this trip, and should have a nice price, like in the 4-1 range. With the fifth position he can sit 4-5 lengths from the leaders. With a good ride, he should be heard from late. Having Velazquez on the mount certainly does not hurt. He is my top pick.

Creative Cause returns after a good showing the Derby. His fifth place finish was a lot better then it sounds. He had a troubled trip with some bumping and still managed a respectable stretch drive. What I like here is he will have a good price, like 6-1, and has competed historically with horses like I’ll Have Another (losing by a nose in the Santa Anita Derby and beating him in the Best Pal Grade 2 last August) and Bodemeister (beating him by 3/4 of a length in the San Felipe in March) on top of the Kentucky Derby. He has hit the board eight out of nine trips and is a definite exotics play, as a pricey win play.

Daddy Nose Best returns after finishing 10th in the Derby. He gets his regular ride, Julien Leparoux back on board, and if he has any shot of doing something here, he will need to stay close to the leaders. The shortened distance and jockey swap helps him the most, but I would be shocked if he were to finish in the top five.

Optimizer is the final returning horse returning from the Derby and I am really not sure why. He showed very little in the Derby and the Arkansas Derby since his second place finish the Grade-2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park. He has shown a solid closing kick, but I do not expect him to be much of a factor here. Prefer many others.

The first post will be held by Tiger Walk. His last race was a fourth place finish in the Wood Memorial. He has a decent closing kick, as shown in two of his last three races, but even with Kent Desormeaux on his mount, I think there is too much talent around him to make any noise here.

If there is a horse outside of the favorites that could surprise everyone, I think it is Teeth of the Dog. He is likely to go off in the 12-1 range, and even with the second post position and his early speed, I would not be overly shocked if Joe Bravo has him flying down the stretch here. He kicked it in gear to show in the Wood Memorial, and has hit the board four out of four tries. This is a horse that really has no where to go but up, and I will be including him on a good portion of my trifecta tickets.

Zetterholm has the fourth post and is coming off three straight wins, all at Aqueduct. His last win was most impressive, winning easily by over two lengths over local winners. Richard Dutrow trains this colt, with Junior Alvarado on the mount. His speed numbers have improved with every race, but I am not sure he will have enough to catch these. Would include in trifecta and superfecta tickets, but not very many.

The final horse rounding out the bunch is Cozzetti, training by Dale Romans. His last out was the Arkansas Derby, where he finished fourth, well behind Bodemeister. He is a career one for seven, hitting the board only twice. His one win came in a maiden claimer race in the slop. Since then, his best performance came when he showed in the Tampa Bay Derby. Not expecting much here.

How the race will play out:

As expected, Bodemeister will lead out of the gate, sitting comfortably ahead around the first turn. Teeth of he Dog, Went The Day Well, Creative Cause and I’ll Have Another will sit a few lengths from the lead. Pretension, Optimizer and Cozzetti will be already too far behind around the backstretch. Daddy Nose Best will try to keep up, ultimately forced to sit back. Around the final turn, Went The Day Well and I’ll Have Another will move to try and catch Bodemeister. Creative Cause and Teeth of the Dog follow. Bodemeister will have the lead down the stretch but I’ll Have Another, Went The Day Well and Creative Cause will come quickly. Daddy Nose Best and Teeth of the Dog will surge, but there won’t be much track left.

John Velazquez will kick Went The Day Well into his top gear and he’ll get by Bodemeister at the wire.

I’ll Have Another will hold off Creative Cause for show, as Bodemeister will grab place.

What’s your pick for the Preakness? Be heard in the comments below…

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