Originally, trainer Doug O’Neill had planned to keep Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another at posh Churchill Downs.
But during a long night of celebrating – O’Neill, predictably enough, copped to uttering the name of his horse many times to the bartender – the California trainer and the colt’s connections decided otherwise.
He will ship to Pimlico Monday and is expected to arrive around 5 p.m. to prepare for the Preakness, second leg of the Triple Crown.
“We just figured getting over there and getting settled in would be a good idea,” O’Neill said this morning, at a mostly quiet track.
Mostly quiet until the discovery of a body at about 4:45, outside barn eight, which attracted dozens of police, including a homicide detective and the crime lab. Police said the body was that of an adult Hispanic male and they are treating it as a homicide.
I’ll Have Another came out of his rousing win, in which he chased down Bodemeister to win by 1 ½ lengths, well. O’Neill, who won his first Derby with his third try (he had two horses in 2007), faced the inevitable questions about his horse’s Triple Crown worthiness shortly after arriving at the barn.
“I think this is the kind of colt who can keep it going,” he said.
He said I’ll Have Another is versatile enough to handle any length or type of race.
We’ll find out on May 19.
Of course, his chances at Pimlico depend largely on who he’ll face.
So far, this is what we know for sure:
Bob Baffert, trainer for second-place finisher Bodemeister, is undecided on whether he'll bring his speedy colt (who would probably be the favorite). He could also bring Liason, who went off paying 56.20 to win Saturday but finished sixth, or a fresh horse. He said he likely won't make a decision on Bodemeister until next Monday.
Third-place finisher Dullahan does not seem likely to head east. Trained by Dale Romans, who won the Preakness with Shackleford last year, the colt will probably be saved for the Belmont.
“I’d be very surprised if we went to the Preakness,” owner Jerry Crawford said. “It’s shorter at 1 3/16 miles, has sharper turns, and it would be three races in five weeks for Dullahan. The Belmont seems more likely.”
Graham Motion hasn’t decided whether Went the Day Well will race in the state where he is based. The Fair Hill based trainer and 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, with Animal Kingdom, was distraught at his barn Sunday morning.
“We had a chance to make history,” he said, referring to repeating. “You don’t get that very often.”
He felt that Went the Day Well was good enough to win but had terrible racing luck.
Finally, Union Rags is a possibility for the Preakness, as well. The 9-2 morning line second favorite broke poorly, couldn’t find space and needed a very strong close to finish 7th. Trainer Michael Matz, also based in Fair Hill, bathed his colt on Sunday and had nothing but regrets.
“I don’t mind getting beat,” he said, “if he gets to run. He didn’t get to run.”
There should be more news on Preakness possibles at some point today, and I’ll pass that along when I have it.
Done Talking, the Hamilton Smith-trained colt based at Laurel, will not go to the Preakness. He made it through the race fine and shipped back to Baltimore at about 7:30 Sunday.