The eleven horse field of Saturday’s Preakness can be easily separated in three distinct groups: the favorites, their main competition, and the rest. While the majority of the field falls in to the latter bunch, there are only four horses that comprise the first two groups. Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another will undoubtedly be the two favorites, while Creative Cause and Went the Day Well will be considered their primary competition. A win by anyone but one of these four would represent a major surprise in Baltimore. Considering the excellent races both Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another ran in Louisville, it’s no wonder that bettors will be hammering them down at the windows. A repeat of the pair running 1-2 in either order at Pimlico would go a long way in solidifying their place as the cream of their generation, as well as, laying a foundation for a terrific new rivalry. But is this scenario likely to happen on Saturday? Recent history would say chances are not good.
In the twelve editions of the Preakness so far in the 21st century, there has not been a single running in which the top two from the Derby came back to finish 1st and 2nd in the Preakness. The last pair of horses to turn the trick was Charismatic and Menifee, who finished in the same order in the first two legs of the Triple Crown back in 1999. In fairness, there have been several years where the runner-up in Kentucky did not return in the Middle Jewel, but when they did, they failed to repeat a top-two finish at Pimlico. In the last dozen years, the closest we came was ten years ago when War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, while Proud Citizen finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Take a look at the chart below to see how the top two from Louisville have fared in Baltimore.
What does it all mean? Clearly running first in the Derby is much more advantageous two weeks later at Pimlico than finishing second. In the last twelve years, four times the Run for the Roses winner came back to win the Preakness, and four other times they finished 2nd.
Meanwhile the Kentucky Derby runner-up has not only failed to win the Preakness in the last 18 runnings, but they haven’t finished 1st or 2nd in any Preakness of the last twelve.
It’s an interesting trend that would seem to favor I’ll Have Another on Saturday, while downplaying the chances of Bodemeister. So maybe the rivalry we should be looking for is not I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, but rather the Derby winner and Creative Cause. The Californian pair has already had traded 1-2 finishes in two stakes races, including the Santa Anita Derby, before they arrived in Kentucky. Keep in mind, that while I’ll Have Another was winning the Derby, Creative Cause was running a deceptively good 5th (beaten only 3 lengths while in traffic, and forced out on the far turn.)
Or maybe Bodemeister has no understanding of such trends, and it will be him and Creative Cause turning the tables in the Preakness. Remember the pair did finish 1st and 2nd in the San Felipe.
In conclusion, you can just call Pimlico, California East on Saturday. I’ll Have Another is the horse to beat in the Preakness, but Bodemeister might be that special horse to bust open the recent trend of Derby runner-ups to flame out if they even ran at Pimlico. And while the pair would create a nice new rivalry that racing so desperately needs, you cannot forget the third horse from California, Creative Cause, who could easily slip into one half of the beautiful rivalry scenario.