BALTIMORE -- Judging by his appetite and appearance, Bodemeister has rebounded nicely from his vigorous trip in the Kentucky Derby and is ready to shine at the Preakness.
Bodemeister finished second in the Derby and has been installed the favorite in Saturday's second jewel of the Triple Crown.
"I've had some horses, they run (and then) they don't eat for a few days and they sulk in the stall or whatever," Bodemeister trainer Bob Baffert said. "But he's a pretty tough horse. He just bounced out of it really well. If you watch their weight over their rumps, that's where they usually lose it if they can't handle what you're giving them. He filled out nice and his hair looks good. He looks good."
So, Baffert's got nothing to worry about, right?
Uh, not exactly. Because not even a Hall of Fame trainer can predict how a horse will react when thrust into a big race for the second time in 15 days.
"If the gate comes open and they feel like running, they run," he said. "If they don't feel like it, they don't run."
Baffert speaks from experience. In 2009, he brought Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile to Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness. The horse went off as the second favorite and finished 11th in a field of 13.
"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."
Baffert has won the Preakness five times. Doug O'Neill, trainer of Derby winner I'll Have Another, never even visited Baltimore before last week.
The edge in experience goes to Baffert, but the most important factor in determining the winner of a race isn't necessarily the manner in which a horse is groomed, exercised or saddled.
Most times, the best horse wins – even if the trainer is a Preakness first-timer.
"The cream always rises to the top," Baffert said. "The Kentucky Derby winner is a very good horse and he's going to be tough to beat."
Only six of the 20 horses that ran at Churchill Downs came to Baltimore for the Preakness. Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause, expects his horse to bounce back from a disappointing fifth-place finish – the first time in nine career races the gray colt finished out of the money.
"He's getting more mature with every race he runs," Harrington said. "He's doing well. He's holding up good. I was talking to somebody this morning and I said it will be interesting to see how many of these are still standing after the Belmont."
Went the Day Well finished fourth in the Derby, and trainer Graham Motion can only hope his horse has enough left to run better in the Preakness.
"Went the Day Well looks like he's doing great," Motion said. "But honestly, I don't know how he's going to run Saturday. He's given me every indication that he's doing super, but I don't think we can tell what the Derby has taken out of them until we get there."
There are five new shooters set to go, all at odds ranging from 15- to 30-1.
One of them is Tiger Walk, who changed jockeys after Kent Desormeaux failed a Breathalyzer test at Belmont Park in New York on Friday. Ramon Dominguez will now ride the 30-1 long shot owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank.
"It was a team decision," trainer Ignacio Correas said. "Ramon is a great rider. We're happy to have him."
Other notable new shooters include Teeth of the Dog (15-1), who was third in the Wood Memorial for trainer Michael Matz and Cozzetti (30-1), trained by Dale Romans, who won last year's Preakness with Shackleford.
The field, from the rail out: Tiger Walk (Kent Desormeaux, 30-1); Teeth of the Dog (Joe Bravo, 15-1); Pretension (Javier Santiago, 30-1); Zetterholm (Junior Alvarado, 20-1); Went the Day Well (John Velazquez, 6-1); Creative Cause (Joel Rosario, 6-1); Bodemeister (Mike Smith, 8-5); Daddy Nose Best (Julien Leparoux, 12-1); I'll Have Another (Mario Gutierrez, 5-2); Optimizer (Corey Nakatani, 30-1); and Cozzetti (Jose Lezcano, 30-1).