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May 10, 2012

I'll Have Another in two weeks

By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

(Sports Network) - I'll Have Another, the horse no one gave any respect to all spring long, showed the world how powerful he is with a 1 1/2-length victory in the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Why wasn't I'll Have Another appreciated as much as other top-flight colts? It might have been his jockey Mario Gutierrez, who was a virtual unknown from Hastings Park in Vancouver before he picked up the mount in the Robert B. Lewis. And speaking of the Lewis, it was that race which propelled I'll Have Another onto the national scene, barely, with a 2 3/4-length score at odds of 43-1. I say barely because not many national handicappers were smart enough to move him onto their top 10 Kentucky Derby lists after the race.

Fast forward to the Santa Anita Derby and the Doug O'Neill trainee was a surprisingly high 4-1 second choice to Creative Cause. I'll Have Another proved his win in the Lewis was not a fluke by holding off the 4-5 favorite by a nose in the fastest Santa Anita Derby in over a decade. Still, his Beyer figure wasn't as high as those recorded by Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby, Dullahan in the Blue Grass Stakes and Gemologist in the Wood Memorial.

After winning the Kentucky Derby, you can be sure he will be respected from here on in.

The Churchill Downs track was playing fast all day long with speed holding up in most of the races. That fact helped Bodemeister hold on for second despite setting blistering fractions on the front end. Dullahan closed strongly for third, but the day belonged to I'll Have Another.

The son of Flower Alley, who broke sharply from post 19, sat in a perfect spot about five lengths behind the pacesetters through an unbelievably fast 22 1/5- second first quarter. As the pace quickened, Gutierrez, riding in his first Kentucky Derby, let the speed horses tire themselves out before he made his run around the far turn.

In fact, as the 20-horse field approached the top of the stretch, I'll Have Another was fourth behind the three speeds - Bodemeister, Trinniberg and Hansen.

With only one furlong to go, he had dead aim on Bodemeister, and the only horses within shouting distance were Creative Cause and Dullahan. I'll Have Another collared the Bob Baffert-trained colt at the sixteenth pole and, just like that, the dream had come true for a horse that cost just $35,000.


The race did not go as smoothly for the post time favorite, Union Rags. But then again, when does this horse not run into trouble?

It all began when he was squeezed at the start and had to close from much farther back than usual. The Fountain of Youth winner - 18th early on - closed strongly to finish seventh and should improve at Pimlico. However, he has won just one of his last four races and the odds of another troubled trip are stronger than a victory at Old Hilltop.

As for Dullahan, it is time to give him the credit he deserves. A lot of folks wondered if he could handle the dirt, but the half-brother to Mine That Bird showed true grit with his third-place finish. Furthermore, if the track had played fair, he might have been the winner instead of I'll Have Another.

The major disappointment outside of Union Rags was the previously undefeated Gemologist. Todd Pletcher's charge showed early speed from the gate but was never a factor finishing a distant 16th.

All throughout the spring it appeared the California contingent was dominant and the results from the Derby bear that out. Not only did I'll Have Another and Bodemeister complete a $306.60 exacta, but Creative Cause ran well to finish fifth and Liaison even held off Union Rags for sixth.

On To Baltimore

Can I'll Have Another become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978?

His breeding suggests the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles will be a piece of cake. The Preakness, on the other hand, will be the tougher of the two races. On the negative side, he will have to bounce back in two short weeks. On the positive side, he is a fresh horse having raced just twice since February.

On the other hand, Bodemeister will be hitting the track three times in five weeks if he runs in the Preakness, and he might be a tired horse having used so much energy on the front end in the Derby.

It's too early to tell how many will challenge I'll Have Another at Pimlico in two weeks, but one thing is for sure: there can be only one Triple Crown winner and it is I'll Have Another's to lose.

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