My favorite race so far of the 2012 racing season for several reasons is the Preakness. One of the biggest explanations for my love of this year’s middle jewel is the admiration I felt for I’ll Have Another that day as he dug deep down for every ounce of courage he could muster to catch Bodemeister. The Zayat runner looked to all the world home free at the head of the stretch, but to see those purple and white silks of the Derby winner just keep coming until the favored speedster had to succumb was nothing short of special. Yesterday’s feature at Del Mar, the Grade 2 Best Pal, caused both a vivid and legal flashback of the I’ll Have Another win, as those same familiar silks were carried home by Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neill’s heir apparent, Know More.
Shown supreme confidence by his connections, Know More was entered in the graded stakes race despite never having run before. When it was all over, the son of Lion Heart had become the first horse ever at Del Mar to become a graded stakes winner in his maiden voyage.
With eclipse award winning rider Garrett Gomez in the saddle, the colt was backed to 8-1, despite running against several stakes winners. Wearing down fleet filly Heir Kitty through the lane, the outcome was in doubt until the late stages before Know More was able to find enough in reserve to roll by late to win by a half-length. Final time was a solid 1:16.14 for the 6 ½ furlongs over the main track. Making the late charge all the more impressive was the fact that the winner needed to run his final sixteenth in slightly less than six seconds to get by the stubborn leader. Replace the pair with I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, and you can see why I could not help but think of this year’s outstanding edition of the Preakness.
Gomez explained the young colt’s progression in the mornings and spoke of him in glowing terms after the races, “He’s been a work in progress in the mornings. I’ve worked him two or three times in the morning, working to get him to be more comfortable. Today, he did it right. He broke out of there good and he relaxed. When I asked him to move up on the backside, he did it just fine. Then he went to running. This race is six and a half, too. Not five or five and a half (furlongs). It takes a special kind of horse to do what he did. We just have to be hopeful that he’s all that we think he is.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill was also revved up after the win, “It exceeded our expectations. We were expecting him to put in a good effort, but you never expect something like this right out of the box. Garrett just raved about him, so it’s very exciting.”
We will never get a chance to see I’ll Have Another, hero of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, but denied a chance at the Triple Crown when he was injured days before the Belmont Stakes, but in the world of racing we are always renewed with hope for the next wave of excellent horses. Know More might be just the type of horse to make the fall into the spring a very exciting time. By the way, Know More did one better than I’ll Have Another, as the front runner for the three-year-old championship ran second in this race to Creative Cause in the 2011 Best Pal Stakes.
What will Know More do for an encore? How about a grade 1 … the closing-day Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Futurity on Wednesday, September 5 at seven furlongs, should be next for the up and coming star if all goes as planned.