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Eyeing today’s Preakness field

May 19, 2012

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Dr. William Reed, the horse-obsessed heart surgeon from Kansas City, understands why Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister and winner I’ll Have Another have the shortest odds for today’s Preakness.

“Both horses gave a great performance last time, and I think they’re enough better than the rest of the field to be the favorites,” said Reed, who owns horses at Stonecrest Farm in Kansas City.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a given, of course. Seeds of doubt always accompany folks walking to the window to place bets on horse races. Reed didn’t have trouble identifying some.

“I’ll Have Another has a rookie jockey (Mario Gutierrez),” Reed said. “They’ll probably be race-riding the crap out of him.”

Which means?

“There will be a horse in front of him and a horse beside him, and they won’t let him out,” Reed said. “The veteran jocks will be thinking, ‘If we can keep this horse out of the race by boxing him in, and then at the last minute we can go and maybe win at the end.’”

Devising a similar strategy to keep Bodemeister out of the winner’s circle wouldn’t likely work, Reed said.

“Bodemeister’s going to be running on the lead, and they’ll have trouble getting him,” Reed said. “I think Bodemeister has only one way of running, and that’s on the lead. If he had another way of running, (trainer Bob) Baffert would not have let him go (that fast early in the Derby).”

Bodemeister, Reed suspects, is one of those horses that gets out of its comfort zone if it is held back by the jockey tugging on the reins.

Even though Bodemeister isn’t vulnerable to race-riding, seeds of doubt remain.

“The way he ran the Derby makes you wonder if he can come up with another one,” Reed said. “The rule of thumb for thoroughbreds that run really hard is, it takes them about three weeks to get back to their optimum. The reason is very practical. Horses that give it all they’ve got, most have congestion, bleeding in the lungs. It takes three weeks to clear.”

Decades of experience tell Reed that horses that finish strong tend to recover better than those that start fast and fade at the end, which in that respect, at least, gives I’ll Have Another an edge over Bodemeister. Based on that, Went the Day Well also has a chance to recover well from a strong Derby performance.

And then there are the horses that didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby, basically because their owners didn’t think they had a shot to finish in the money.

“I don’t think you can count out a fresh horse that has proven talent,” Reed said.

The closest to fitting that description is Teeth of the Dog, but the speed horse has not yet won a graded stakes, and some question whether it has the stamina to hang in there all the way in the 13⁄16-mile event at Pimlico Race Course. It finished third in the Wood Memorial, behind Derby failures Gemologist (severe bone bruise kept it from running strong at Churchill Downs) and Alpha.

This, like every horse race, is no easy call, but why not give it a try and hope your picks don’t suffer a bone bruise? Let’s try a trifecta this time: Went the Day Well, I’ll Have Another, Teeth of the Dog.

Leaving Bodemeister out of the money is a bold gamble, but not an absurd one.

“It comes down to, can he run the same kind of race with the same kind of front speed?” Reed said. “I’m doubting he can do that because he ran his guts out in the Derby.”

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