Arkansas Derby Winner Bodemeister Gallops Strongly at Pimlico

May 18, 2012

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Rolly Hoyt,, (501) 623-4411 ex. 496

Jennifer Hoyt, (501) 623-4411 ex. 497

Friday, May 18, 2012

Arkansas Derby Winner Bodemeister Gallops Strongly at Pimlico

Oaklawn has three rooting interest in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) led by Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister, second in the Kentucky Derby, who drew post position seven and was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite for the middle leg of the Triple Crown. He will be joined in the field by Rebel Stakes runner-up Optimizer, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and Arkansas Derby fourth-place finisher Cozzetti.

Oaklawn will open its doors for complete simulcast action from Pimlico at 9 a.m. Post time for the Preakness is scheduled for 5:18 p.m. CDT.

Below is a progress report on each runner from the Maryland Jockey Club Media Office.

BODEMEISTER– After Zayat Stables and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s Empire Maker colt came back from his gallop on the track at Pimlico Friday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert deemed the Arkansas Derby winner ready for the 137th Preakness on Saturday.

“The horse looks good. He’s trained well,” Baffert said. “It’s just waiting now.”

Bodemeister set a scorching pace in the Kentucky Derby and managed to hold on to finish second to I’ll Have Another. The two California-based colts meet again in the Preakness – with Bodemeister the 8-5 favorite in the morning line – and the question to be answered in the race is how the race will unfold. Will I’ll Have Another press the pace? Will Bodemeister try to run the competition into the ground in a race that is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby?

“On paper, it looks like he’s going to be the speed,” Baffert said. “He has to break well. He has a high cruising speed and hopefully he doesn’t go as fast as he did in the Derby.”

At Churchill Downs in the Derby, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and Bodemeister covered the first quarter in :22.32 and the half-mile in :45.39. Smith is back aboard for the Preakness, but he doesn’t have to deal with speedsters such as Hansen and Trinniberg in the Preakness.

“I think he learned a lot from the horse the last time,” Baffert said. “He’s a horse that if you push the button he’s going to be gone. The pace is the whole key here. I’ve been at the Preakness and there is always some longshot that decides they want to go. I can’t worry about that. If Bodemeister just runs his race then he’ll be effective. That’s the whole key.”

The unknown factor is how the Derby horses will perform on two week’s rest.

“If the gate comes open and they feel like running, they run,” Baffert said. “If they don’t feel like it, they don’t run.”

Baffert mentioned Pioneerof the Nile, the Derby runner-up in 2009.

“I thought he would run huge and he never ran a jump,” Baffert said. “They’re doing great, but you’re still waiting for that gate to come open to see what they’re going to do.

“All I can do is get them ready, lead them up there and put the saddle on them. The horse has to do the rest and the jockey has to keep him out of trouble. That’s Mike’s job: keep him out of trouble and ride the race he thinks is right to him. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a big arena we’re playing in.”

With his remarkable speed, Bodemeister has been first or second in each of his five career starts.

“Bode,’ I can’t change his style too much,” Baffert said. “He’s a lightly raced horse. Hopefully, he doesn’t go too fast. If they go with him, it’s actually good, because if they chase him it’s a good thing. We’ll see what happens.”

Baffert has won the Preakness five times from 12 starters since making his debut with Cavonnier (4th) in 1996. His quintet is composed of Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), as well as Point Given in 2001 and Lookin at Lucky in 2010.

“My secret is that those horses were very, very good horses,” he said. “They were the best horses and that’s why they won. Three of them won the Kentucky Derby and two of them didn’t run well in the Derby, but they bounced back really well.

“The cream always rises to the top. The Kentucky Derby winner is a very good horse and he’s going to be tough to beat.”

COZZETTI– Trainer Dale Romans, who saddled Shackleford for a victory in last year’s Preakness Stakes, made his first appearance at Pimlico this week at about 8 a.m. Friday.

“He looked super training today,” Romans said after watching the gray colt jog a mile and gallop a mile under exercise rider Mary Doser. “It’s an uphill battle, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ran big.”

Albaugh Family Stables’ son of grass champion Cozzene was in a three-horse photo for second while finishing fourth behind runaway winner Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He showed his readiness with a brilliant five-furlong work in :58.80 Monday at Churchill Downs.

“It looks like he should be strictly a grass horse, but he’s sure running well on the dirt – better than on the grass,” said Romans, who finished second in the 2010 Preakness with First Dude. “He’s coming around at the right time. I don’t know if he’s good enough to win, but he’s going to run a big race. They (the top contenders) better not stub their toes.

Romans, who stopped to give a fan his hat after posing for a photo near the track apron, said it’s been fun returning to Pimlico this year after winning his first Triple Crown event last year.

“The Preakness is always fun to come to, but it’s pretty nice to pull in here and see the big poster of Shackleford,” he said with a broad smile. “We know we’re only the reigning Preakness champion for 24 or 30 more hours, but it was really fun pulling in here today.”

Jose Lezcano, who has been aboard Cozzetti’s last two starts, is set to ride in his first Preakness.

OPTIMIZER– Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Optimizer, second in Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes and ninth in the Arkansas Derby, to the track early Friday morning for a long gallop over the main track at Pimlico Race Course and pronounced his horse “as ready as we can be.”

“Everything today was great,” Lukas said as he prepared his 37th Preakness runner since the early 1980s. “We’ve got to have some luck on the trip.  I don’t know if I feel good about the karma with this one, but I love the way we drew (post 10). I don’t know that we can win it, but I think we may get a piece of it.”

Lukas has had enough experience here to recognize the logical contenders and he’s concerned that Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister could steal the race.

“In the Derby we thought Trinniberg was just going to go and he never even got up in front,” said the five-time Preakness-winning trainer. “I think if Bodemeister gets loose on the lead, he’s very dangerous because I think he gets bolder and bolder. I thought he ran a hell of a race in the Derby to hang around like he did in those fractions.”

Lukas also believes trainer Bob Baffert’s familiarity with this race will help his horse’s chances.

“I think the experience of being here and doing this … it’s no accident to win five as Bob and I have. I think that factors into it,” Lukas said. “I think when (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick goes into the Super Bowl, there’s something to be said for ‘been there and done that.’”

And while he respects the Derby winner, he needs more convincing in terms of Triple Crown possibilities.

“We’re going to give him every credit in the world – beautiful race, strong powerful race in the end,” Lukas said. “If he does it here, we’ll go to New York and say, ‘let’s see if he can do it again.’ We’re not going to bronze him and put him in the infield off one race, are we? I want to see it again. This horse’s pedigree (Flower Alley) is really questionable.”