The US Triple Crown is alive with Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another edging Bodemeister to win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday (Sunday AEST).
I’ll Have Another charged down the home straight as he did in the Derby to beat Bodemeister by a head.
He will now head to next month’s Belmont Stakes in New York to attempt to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to claim racing’s Triple Crown.
“We’re thinking Triple Crown,” trainer Doug O’Neill said.
“Why not? He’s a special horse. We’re heading to New York, baby.”
Despite his win at Churchill Downs, I’ll Have Another was second favourite for the Preakness behind Bodemeister.
And I’ll Have Another might just have sent a message to any doubters as to whether he can handle the distance in three weeks and end the longest Triple Crown drought in history.
“I haven’t thought past today. I didn’t let myself do it,” his owner J Paul Reddam said.
“We’ll see you in New York. I can’t imagine it. We know it’s going to be crazy. I’m going to try and keep everyone’s feet on the ground.”
Jockey Mario Gutierrez said I’ll Have Another deserved more of the credit for how the race was run than he did while sitting atop him.
“It’s all in the horse,” Gutierrez said.
“He’s just a great horse. I’m so happy for him. He has a tremendous kick. He’s more smart than I am. He waits for me.”
Bodemeister’s trainer Bob Baffert could only pay his respects to a horse that out-raced his colt.
“I felt good about where he (Bodemeister) was,” Baffert said.
“Turning for home I really thought he had it. The winner is a good horse. He will get the respect now he deserves.
“He didn’t win it but our horse was pretty good too. He showed up. He ran his race.”
O’Neill, a first-time Preakness winner, watched the closing drama unfold with confidence but tension.
“It was incredible,” O’Neill said. “I’m just numb. When I saw Mario get him in stride mid-stretch, I had faith in him.”
Reddam did not want to think a repeat win could happen, until it did.
“There was a point I didn’t think we were going to get there,” he said.
“I’ll Have Another was running his guts out. With 10 yards to go I didn’t think he was going to be able to do it.”
I’ll Have Another ran only three times last year before suffering a shin injury in September.
He did not run again until February and then earned a trip to Kentucky by winning April’s Santa Anita Derby.