Ill Have Another did just that, winning another Triple Crown race with even more dash and flash than he did in the Kentucky Derby.
By bolting past Bodemeister again this time in Saturdays Preakness, all that stands in the way of racing glory is the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.
Win that, and the smooth-striding 3-year-old will find himself in the company of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the last to win thoroughbred racings most coveted prize in 1978.
Thats heady company for a colt who has yet to be favored in any of his seven races. That should change in the Belmont.
Were thinking Triple Crown, baby, elated winning trainer Doug ONeill said. Hes a special horse. Well see how he comes out of it, and if he comes out of it in good shape, were heading to New York, baby.
Ill Have Another won by 1½ lengths in the Derby and by a neck in the Preakness the same margins Affirmed posted in wins over rival Alydar in those two races 34 years ago.
But theres one big storyline difference this time: Bodemeister is skipping the Belmont. Hes getting off the bus here, trainer Bob Baffert said.
The 1 3/16-mile Preakness unfolded the same way as the 1 1/4-mile Derby, with the speedy Bodemeister moving to the lead under Mike Smith and Ill Have Another hanging back in fourth in the 11-horse field. The early fractions were slower than the Derby, but when it came time for Bodemeister to dig in, it was Ill Have Another who found another gear under young jockey Mario Gutierrez and surged past the tiring pacesetter in the shadow of the wire.
Since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner, 11 horses have won the first two legs only to come up short in the 1½-mile Belmont, the longest of the races also known as the Test of the Champion. The most recent try came in 2008, when Big Brown was pulled up around the turn for home and did not finish. Before that, Smarty Jones was run down in the final 70 yards by Birdstone in the 2004 Belmont.
Ill Have Another has made a habit of close calls. Before the Triple Crown began, the chestnut colt won the Santa Anita Derby by a nose over Creative Cause. As usual, owner Paul Reddam wasnt sure his colt would come through this time.
I didnt feel confident we were going to get there until 10 yards from the wire, Reddam said. I wasnt sure that we would get there, but I knew that our horse had a lot of heart and a lot of fight.
With a record crowd of 121,309 watching, Ill Have Another was sent off as the second choice at 3-1, with Bodemeister the 8-5 favorite. The winning time was 1 minute, 55.94 seconds.
Ill Have Another paid $8.40, $3.80 and $2.80. Bodemeister returned $3.20 and $2.80, and Creative Cause paid $3.60 to show.
Baffert, a Hall of Famer and five-time Preakness winner, thought his colt named for his 7-year-old son, Bode would outlast Ill Have Another.
I felt really good about where he was, Baffert said. I really thought he was going to do it. The winner is a good horse. He should get the respect now that he deserves.
The victory was worth $600,000, boosting his earnings to $2,693,600. Not a bad return for Reddam, who bought the colt for $35,000 on the advice of ONeills brother, Dennis.
He showed hes the real deal. Hes a real race horse. He gutted it out, Reddam said. The other horse was not stopping. He ran a bang-up race, to come and catch him, how can you criticize that? For those who have followed the horse and bet on him, thats been pretty rewarding. I dont know if that will be the case next time, though.
Gutierrez, who was riding at Hastings Park in Western Canada until showing up in California last winter, displayed the calm and cunning of a veteran.
Its not me; its him. Its all about the horse, the 25-year-old jockey from Mexico said. He just keeps proving people wrong. Im so happy for him because hes such a great horse. He has a tremendous kick in the end.