Whatever the fate of the 2,000 Guineas winner Camelot at Epsom in 12 days' time, and whatever his destiny afterwards, at least one Triple Crown dream is still alive. The Kentucky Derby hero I'll Have Another followed up in the second leg of the US version, the Preakness Stakes, on Saturday night and is now bound for the third, next month's Belmont Stakes.
The two Classic trebles are very different, but elusive on whatever side of the Atlantic. In these parts it involves the greater range of talent over a longer timespan – the Guineas over a mile at Newmarket in May, the Derby over 12 furlongs in June and the St Leger over 14 furlongs at Doncaster in September – and the last to succeed, Nijinsky in 1970, was also the last to try.
In the States, a horse has to win over three left-handed ovals in the space of six weeks – over 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, over nine and a half at Pimlico in Maryland and then over 12 at Belmont in New York – and the concept is more fashionable. The most recent to achieve it was Affirmed in 1978, but since then 11 have tried.
In the Preakness, I'll Have Another was a rebuke to those critics who had suggested his Kentucky Derby victory came courtesy only of the suicidal fractions set by the trailblazing runner-up Bodemeister, whom he ran down close home under a cool ride from the unheralded rookie Mario Gutierrez. In the rematch, Mike Smith again tried to make all on Bodemeister, though at a more conservative pace, but the result was the same as again Gutierrez swooped late, and perfectly, to score by a neck.
I'll Have Another, named for his Canadian-born owner Paul Reddam's reaction to his wife's home-baked biscuits, himself ate up heartily after his effort in Baltimore. "He's licked his feed tub clean," reported his California-based trainer Doug O'Neill yesterday morning, "so bring on the Belmont."
Gutierrez, rocketed to the spotlight by his Churchill Downs triumph, handed the credit to his equine partner. "This is not about me, it's about the horse," said the 25-year-old Mexican. "He has a tremendous kick and seems to know when to use it. He is more smart than I am and I just let him go."
After the duel, the more experienced Smith gave credit where it was due. "I really thought I had him put away this time," he said, "but he just reached up and got us within three strides."
Any racing regime needs a superstar and a Triple Crown challenge will give the American scene a much-needed boost, particularly by such a rags-to-riches horse. As a yearling, the son of the then unproven sire Flower Alley cost $11,000 (£7,000). He has earned $1.3m for Reddam, a successful businessman and former professor of philosophy at California State University.
"The great part of I'll Have Another is that any of us could have one like him," O'Neill said. "He didn't cost a million bucks, but he's got the heart of a champion, the stride of a champion and the mind of a champion."
And on that subject, Frankel was also given a clean bill of health yesterday after blitzing home in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday to take his career to a perfect 10 for 10. "Sir Henry [Cecil, trainer] says the horse is very pleased with himself this morning," said Teddy Grimthorpe, owner Khalid Abdullah's racing manager.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Dixie's Dream (7.50 Leicester)
Came home strongly from off the pace last time in a contest that favoured those up front, and still looks to be on a manageable mark.
Next best: Forget Me Not Lane (3.10 Redcar)
Showed improved form over seven furlongs on his return last month and should appreciate a further step up in trip as he starts off in handicaps.
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