The 2012 Preakness Stakes
It is not uncommon for the Preakness Stakes to feature a rematch of Thoroughbreds who met in the Kentucky Derby. While the winner of the Run for the Roses inevitably takes center stage due to being the lone horse with a shot at the Triple Crown, at least one other horse in the field generates interest due to finishing well in Louisville after having a troubled journey around the track or because they are a fresh horse being pointed specifically for that race.
In the case of Bodemeister, he was facing a cutback in distance after nearly taking the Derby a fortnight earlier. Taking the lead on the first Saturday in May, Bodemeister finished second when surprise winner I'll Have Another overtook him in deep stretch. It was a commendable victory, but Bodemeister delivered a fine performance in his own right, and he was expected to duplicate that effort again at Pimlico Race Course.
If anyone was experienced in how to win the Preakness, it was Bob Baffert. The legendary trainer had captured several Preaknesses in his career, and that included guiding Lookin at Lucky to the win two years earlier after the son of Smart Strike drew the rail position in the Kentucky Derby. He fought back from a tough race to finish sixth, but rebounded two weeks later in Maryland to get the win in the Triple Crown's middle jewel. Now, Baffert was hoping for the same result with Bodemeister after his charge experienced a tough defeat.
Many believed that would come to pass, for Bodemeister went favored at 8-5 at post time. He beat out I'll Have Another, who was the second choice at around 3-1 in an unusual, though not unprecedented, case of the Kentucky Derby winner not being favored.
Clearly, nobody was going to be surprised to see either horse in the winners' circle, and both of them ensured the best chance possible to do so early. They exited the gate well, and Bodemeister and Mike Smith again went to the front to guide the field around the 1 3/16 mile distance. I'll Have Another and Mario Gutierrez stayed close by, just a few lengths off the pace. Between them were Pretension, winner of the Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico two weeks earlier, and Creative Cause, who was out for a better result after finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister had it all his own way around the first turn and through the backstretch. Although the Preakness was a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the ten furlong Kentucky Derby, he and Smith significantly slowed the pace down compared to fourteen days earlier. There was no sense in setting blazing fractions, and Bodemeister and Smith were not going all out as they moved around the far turn. Perhaps there was enough left in the tank to get the victory?
The leader ran six furlongs in 1:11.72, close to two full seconds slower than what he ran for the same distance in Louisville. The strategy looked to paying off. Creative Cause was within a length of Bodemeister as they neared the top of the stretch, but the favorite got free after they straightened and opened up his lead along the rail. But I'll Have Another was not done. It was the Kentucky Derby all over again, with I'll Have Another pursuing Bodemeister. And both were ready to battle.
It quickly became apparent the top two in the Preakness would match that of the Kentucky Derby. The only question was how the running order would look. A mile went by in 1:36.69, a second and a half off the Derby pace. Bodemeister gave it all his might, not giving up as the wire came closer with every stride. On his outside, I'll Have Another was just as determined, gaining ground on his rival as the thousands at Pimlico watched a mesmerizing conclusion to the Preakness. Could I'll Have Another again complete a tremendous rally, or would Bodemeister hold him off and even the score at the track nicknamed Old Hilltop?
The margin of victory was even closer than it had been in the Kentucky Derby, and both horses were worthy winners of the Grade I event. But there was only one winner on that late afternoon in Maryland. In the final jumps, I'll Have Another found something extra, and he got up to the wire less than a half-length in front of a formidable Bodemeister. He may have lost the Preakness, but Bodemeister lost nothing in defeat.
As for I'll Have Another, he kept his Triple Crown run intact, with just the Belmont Stakes left in the series. It was obviously, and deservedly, the biggest story in racing, but something else that was very notable came out of the Preakness. The third place finisher in the race was Creative Cause, who was no stranger to facing I'll Have Another. They had met three times before in the 2011 Best Pal at Del Mar, the 2012 Santa Anita Derby, and the Kentucky Derby. Creative Cause was a talented horse in his own right, and was able to improve off his fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
So what was exactly notable after I'll Have Another taking the first two-thirds of the Triple Crown? He, Bodemeister and Creative Cause were all Southern California based horses, and they combined to give Southern California a Preakness trifecta. Horses hailing from the same circuit and sweeping the top three positions in a Triple Crown race does not always happen, so it was a special moment when those three excellent colts came to the wire at Pimlico.
I'll Have Another, Bodemeister and Creative Cause all had successful careers, and together they occupy a unique piece of California racing history thanks to their performances in the 2012 Preakness Stakes.