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Arkansas Derby Winner Bodemeister Favored in Saturday’s Preakness | Sports & Recreation

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Arkansas Derby Winner Bodemeister Favored in Saturday’s Preakness
Arkansas Derby Winner Bodemeister Favored in Saturday’s Preakness

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. On Friday, Fantasy Stakes winner Mambo Kimbo and Oaklawn Handicap look to further their winning ways in the Black Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) and Pimlico Special (G3), respectively.

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


BODEMEISTER – Arkansas Derby (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Bodemeister made his first visit to the main track at Pimlico Thursday morning, galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider George Alvarez after the renovation break.

“He was not looking around. He was all business out there,” Alvarez said of the colt who was shipped to Pimlico on Wednesday from Churchill Downs.

Owned by Zayat Stables LLC and Michel and Tiffany Moreno, Bodemeister drew post position No. 7 and was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the field of 11 for the Preakness.

“He drew well,” five-time Preakness winning trainer Bob Baffert said of Bodemeister. “I didn’t want to be inside.”

Baffert left Louisville the day after Bodemeister’s Derby run and returned to Churchill Downs on Monday to confirm the colt’s status for the Preakness. He liked what he saw Monday and he liked what he saw this morning at Pimlico.

“His first day here went well. It looks like he took to the track nicely,” Baffert said. “He was pretty cool out there. I am not seeing anything to make me think anything different about him. He bounced right out of the Derby. His weight has held. He can handle it.”

Mike Smith has the return call on Bodemeister, who led the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field through sizzling fractions before yielding to I’ll Have Another just before the sixteenth pole and finishing 1 ½ lengths back.

“I was proud of him,” Baffert said. “He ran his race. When he cut the corner and opened up at the head of the stretch, I thought ‘maybe,’ but I could see at the eighth pole he was getting tired. He got beat a length and a half and held on for second. That was not disappointing. It was nothing like with Cavonnier (when Grindstone beat him by a nose at the wire in the 1996 Derby). Nothing was worse than the Cavonnier loss.”

Bodemeister figures to be on the lead again Saturday, most likely with the Derby winner close by.

“It will probably be the two of us unless somebody else wants to join the fray,” said Baffert, when asked to assess the field. “I figure the horses coming out of the Derby are the biggest threats. I don’t know much about the new shooters.”

Never worse than second in five starts in a career that did not begin until mid-January, Bodemeister already is a millionaire.

“I enjoy watching him run,” Baffert said. “He’s a pretty tough horse.”


COZZETTI – Albaugh Family Stable’s son of Cozzene went out after the renovation break and galloped     1 ½ miles under exercise rider Mary Doser Thursday morning at Pimlico Race Course. The gray colt flew in from Louisville on Wednesday.

“He’s doing good; he ate everything last night,” said Doser, who is acting as assistant trainer until Dale Romans arrives Thursday night. “He tried to bite everybody, so I guess he’s all right.”

Romans saddled Shackleford for a victory over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in last year’s Preakness.

Still looking for his first victory as a 3-year-old, Cozzetti will attempt to make Romans the first trainer to score back-to-back victories in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown since Bob Baffert accomplished the feat in 2001-02 with Point Given and War Emblem, respectively.

Cozzetti, who finished fourth behind Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby in his last start, will be ridden again by Jose Lezcano. He will break from the outside post in the field of 11.


OPTIMIZER – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent the son of English Channel out for a “restrained gallop” of about 1 ½ miles along with his other weekend runners on a sunny Thursday morning at Pimlico. 

Had certain circumstances been different, the Hall of Fame conditioner admitted he might have chosen to run Optimizer in Saturday’s James W. Murphy Stakes instead of the Preakness Stakes.

“I’m not so sure if the grass race here had been a mile-and-an-eighth race, I wouldn’t have run him on the grass here and taken a soft approach and tried to win the Belmont,” Lukas said. “But because it’s a mile, I don’t think he could get up here.”

Owned by Brad Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall LLC, Optimizer began his career on the turf and broke his maiden at first asking at Saratoga last summer. He raced once more on grass in a Grade 2 Saratoga stake, but has been on the main track for his last eight starts.

Optimizer was 11th in the Kentucky Derby and is still looking for his second victory, but it will be with a new rider in the Preakness. Corey Nakatani has replaced Jon Court.

“If it’s not working in this game, you’ve got to try different things,” said Lukas, who has won the Preakness five times. “Jon Court’s riding well. In fact, since I switched, he’s won two races for me and rode brilliantly at Churchill. Two thoughts on that: No. 1 is getting the experience, getting somebody who’s been in one of these (Nakatani’s fourth Preakness mount). Jon hasn’t been in this arena or the Belmont. The other thing is: I selfishly think that my horse’s best race is going to be the Belmont.  I really believe he’s (Nakatani) going to be a real good fit in the Belmont. The Belmont has been lost by riders more than horses – we all know that. We’re trying to get a little edge if we can.”

Optimizer will be Lukas’ 37th Preakness runner. His five winners include: Codex (his first starter in 1980), Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999). Lukas did not have a Preakness entrant in 2011.