Derby winner seeking another crown jewel
Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 7:00 pm
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Doug O’Neill is immediately turning his attention to the Preakness after I’ll Have Another’s victory in the Kentucky Derby.
The chestnut colt was to be shipped today to Maryland on Monday for the second leg of the Triple Crown, making him the earliest arriving Derby winner since Monarchos showed up at Pimlico four days after his 2001 win.
I’ll Have Another will now look to take the next step towards becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes within a five-week span.
“I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” O’Neill said. “I think he is the kind of horse who can maintain his form and keep it going.”
He’ll likely see some old rivals again in Baltimore on May 19, including Bob Baffert’s Bodemeister, who might have won Saturay’s race if it was 1 3/16th of a mile like the Preakness is.
Baffert joked at what advice he might give O’Neill in advance of the next race following a Derby victory.
“Easy on the crab cakes,” he said. “Californians coming, they’re not used to that.”
Six other Derby horses are possibilities to join the race, including Went the Day Well (fourth), Creative Cause (fifth), Liaison (sixth), Union Rags (seventh), Hansen (ninth) and Optimizer (11th). Went the Day Well sustained a cut on his right front ankle in the Derby, but trainer Graham Motion said it wasn’t a problem.
Seven new candidates are on tap, too.
They are: Pretension and Brimstone Island, the top two in the Canonero II Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico; Cozzetti; Hierro and Paynter, the top two finishers in the Derby Trial at Churchill; Jerome Stakes winner The Lumber Guy; and Tiger Walk.
O’Neill spent all evening celebrating I’ll Have Another’s victory, finally returning to his hotel room about 2 a.m. Sunday.
The party began at the trainer’s barn at Churchill Downs, moved to a charity dinner and ended up at a downtown hotel where the colt’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, had reserved the 25th floor for about 100 people.
O’Neill, based at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., last ran a horse in Maryland six years ago when Thor’s Echo won the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash on his way to winning an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top sprinter. Reddam has owned one previous Preakness starter — Wilko, who was 12th in 2005.
O’Neill plans to briefly return to California before heading back East this week. He told his young son, Daniel, and daughter, Kaylin Dixie, that if I’ll Have Another won the Derby, the family would get a hot tub.
“We are going to have to do some shopping now,” he said.
Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner, plans to keep his two Derby runners, Bodemeister and Liaison, along with Paynter, at Churchill before deciding next weekend whether to take on I’ll Have Another in Baltimore.
“I will let him tell me if he’s ready, like I did with Lookin At Lucky,” Baffert said about Bodemeister, who led most of the Derby until getting caught late.
In 2010, Lookin At Lucky finished sixth as the Derby favorite and went on to win the Preakness.
“With Lookin At Lucky, the day after the Derby I told them, ‘We’re not going to run,”’ Baffert said. “The next Monday I said, ‘Not only are we going, we’re going to win this.’ I’ve got to wait and see if he shows me a spark.”
Four of the top six places in the Derby went to horses based in Southern California. Besides I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, Creative Cause was fifth and Liaison was sixth.
Trainer Michael Matz said he didn’t think seventh-place Union Rags, second choice in the Derby betting, would try the Preakness. The colt is based in Fair Hill, Md., about 11⁄2 hours from Pimlico. However, Matz said running in the 11⁄2-mile Belmont on June 9 “would make more sense.”
“I feel bad for the horse. He didn’t have the chance to show his true ability,” Matz said.
Matz said he would decide after watching Union Rags train and talking with the colt’s 71-year-old owner Phyllis Wyeth.
Union Rags broke a step slow, then got bumped and squeezed back to 18th in the 20-horse field before hitting traffic on the far turn. Matz said he felt badly for the horse and his owner.
“I don’t mind getting beat, I just don’t like getting beat the way he did in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby,” Matz said, referring to Union Rags’ third-place finish in Florida as the favorite. “I know I shouldn’t be crying over spilled milk because it’s happened to other people, too.”
AP Racing Writer Beth Harris contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 5.7.12