By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Kentucky Derby champion I'll Have Another will open from the ninth post in Saturday's $1 million Preakness Stakes as the lightly raced chestnut looks to stay in contention for the elusive Triple Crown.
Two slots inside I'll Have Another in the seven hole will be Bodemeister, the Bob Baffert-trained colt that ran out of gas in the final 100 yards in the Derby and finished second.
Because the Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races, the speedster Bodemeister was installed as the early 8-5 favorite in the field of 11, while I'll Have Another was the second choice at 5-2.
I'll Have Another trainer Doug O'Neill said he was pleased with his spot to the outside of Bodemeister.
"I like the fact that if Bodemeister is absolutely flying, then we don't have to use our horse to track him," he said. "It's more in Bodemeister's hands. It's in (Bodemeister jockey) Mike Smith's hands to set the pace.
"For whatever reason, if he breaks slow, or decides not to go, we'll take the lead and take it from there."
The co-third favorites for the 137th running of the Preakness are Went the Day Well and Creative Cause, who finished fourth and fifth in the Derby, respectively.
Despite winning the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, O'Neill said he understood not being the early favorite, citing Baffert's Preakness credentials.
"Bob Baffert, he's won five of these," said O'Neill. "I've never run a horse here so I totally respect that. I'm just hoping anyone who bets Bodemeister is regretting it Saturday night."
Baffert said his colt escaped the 1-1/4 mile Derby in excellent shape but cautioned looks can be deceiving.
"You just never know how much that last race took out of them until they've actually run," he said. "I think he deserved a chance. He looked great this week. He looks healthy."
Should I'll Have Another win the Preakness, the Kentucky-bred son of Flower Alley would be positioned to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, I'll Have Another would need a victory Belmont Stakes on June 9 to complete the Triple Crown, last achieved by Affirmed.
The Santa Anita champion suffered a shin injury last September and has raced only three times as a three year old, winning each time.
"I'm confident but you never know," said O'Neill. "We won't be that far of Bodemeister. If anything, Bodemeister might be behind us. I can see him chasing us, I really can."
Others Preakness starters will be: Daddy Nose Best (12-1 odds); Teeth of the Dog (15-1); Zetterholm (20-1); Tiger Walk (30-1); Pretension (30-1); Optimizer (30-1); and Cozzetti (30-1).
(Reporting By Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Frank Pingue)