Bodemeister is the big tease in Saturday's 137th Preakness Stakes.
Second in the Kentucky Derby after leading nearly the entire race, the colt is the probable favorite in its rematch with Derby champ, I'll Have Another. Pimlico bettors don't often back long-shot winners of the roses, and the shorter 13?16th-mile race might favor Bodemeister.
It would be an easy mistake to make.
Only two Derby runners-up over the last 50 years -- Summer Squall (1990) and Prairie Bayou (1993) -- followed with a Preakness victory. Eleven finished second again and nine were third, so they're good exacta and triples horses, but history says don't take Bodemeister to win the Preakness.
Don't blame Bob Baffert for trying anyway, though. The five-time Preakness winning trainer scored with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Point Given (2001), War Emblem (2002) and Lookin At Lucky (2010). But Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem were Derby winners, too. Baffert's 1996 Derby runner-up Cavonnier was fourth in the Preakness.
"[Bodemeister] deserves [to enter the Preakness]," Baffert said. "He won the Arkansas Derby and then came back in three weeks and ran a great race. He looks good and I don't see why he can't run another one."
Baffert seemed reserved about Bodemeister before the Derby. The son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner and Derby runner-up Empire Maker won the Arkansas Derby in his fourth start, but there wasn't that eureka moment convincing everyone Bodemeister was a serious contender.
He provided it early in the Derby though, setting record early fractions to shake loose 19 competitors by the top of the stretch. That is, until I'll Have Another passed Bodemeister with 1?16th mile remaining.
That's when, Baffert said, "the yellow caution flag came on." Jockey Mike Smith switched to a left-handed whip trying to urge on Bodemeister, but I'll Have Another was too strong.
But the possible field of 12 drawn Wednesday won't have the frantic early speedsters from the Derby. At least, not the kind that can last 1 3?16 miles. Went The Day Well and Creative Cause, fourth and fifth respectively in the Derby, are Bodemeister's chief competition after I'll Have Another. Tiger Walk, owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, is an interesting long shot after getting Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who can steal a race on the track that made him a 1980s teen phenom.
But Bodemeister has to buck history as much as rivals to earn the Black-Eyed Susans. Alydar couldn't best Affirmed in their 1978 rematch. Neither could Easy Goer swap with Sunday Silence in 1989. Sham finished second again to Secretariat in 1973.
Bodemeister is a feel-good bet ... until the race ends.