LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bodemeister is headed to the Preakness to challenge I'll Have Another after their memorable finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister set a blistering early pace in the Derby only to be caught in the final 100 yards by I'll Have Another and finish second, giving owner Ahmed Zayat his third runner-up finish in the race in the last four years. Zayat was on hand Monday to watch Bodemeister to make sure the horse was ready to travel to Baltimore for Saturday's race.
"He looks fantastic," Zayat said. "He couldn't look any better. In fact, he gained weight since the Derby, which is amazing. ... My heart, he deserves a chance to come and redeem himself in an American classic, but you have to weigh that against the best interest of the horse. I wanted to come with my son Justin to see for myself that he is the same Bodemeister.
"He's actually doing better. He's happier."
Trainer Bob Baffert said Bodemeister came out of the Derby well. He's pleased with what he sees from the colt named after his 7-year-old son, Bode.
"After the race, I thought he'd be completely wiped out," Baffert said. "He cooled out pretty quick and was eating his hay in front of his stall. I was afraid he was going to go into hibernation for about three days in the corner of his stall with his ears pinned, sulking. But he never did.
"He's a pretty tough, amazing animal. His hair looks good. His weight looks good. Right now I don't see any reason not to take him."
Bodemeister, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, ran the opening quarter in 22.32 seconds and a half in :45.39 at the Derby and had a three-lengths lead heading down the stretch before tiring as I'll Have Another caught him late.
The Kentucky Derby was Bodemeister's fifth career start, all this year. Still, he went from mostly unknown to the race favorite in a few short weeks after winning the Arkansas Derby by 91/2 lengths at Oaklawn Park on April 14.
"Think about this, Bob keeps reminding me: Three weeks before that [race] we didn't have a horse in the Derby," Zayat said. "We go from a Grade 1 to favorite in the Derby. That's a huge accomplishment. So, we were feeling sad because he ran a winner's race, and not to get it, you feel bad for the horse. He ran such a brilliant race."
Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner, is less certain with his plans for Liaison, his other Derby entry who finished sixth. Baffert said he wanted to talk to Liaison's owner, Arnold Zetcher, before making a decision.
Juvenile champion Hansen will not run in the Preakness.
The near all-white colt won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in November and the Gotham Stakes in March to put him among the favorites at the Kentucky Derby. But Hansen, who had sprinted to the front in his other starts, was caught in traffic and never a factor. He finished ninth.
Owner Kendall Hansen said that he would love to take Hansen to Baltimore and enjoy all the Preakness festivities, but that it's not in the best interest of the horse to run the 13/16-mile Preakness on two weeks' rest.
The owner expects Hansen's next race to be the Woody Stephens Stakes on June 9.
After finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Creative Cause was shipped back to California by trainer Mike Harrington, who has determined that his colt is fit and ready to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday.
"Everything's fine," said the 71-year-old Harrington, who is scheduled to arrive by plane in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon. The colt will be on an earlier flight that will stop in Louisville to pick up the Churchill Downs contingent heading to the Preakness.