BALTIMORE -- Bob Baffert's slow drive to Pimlico at rush hour Wednesday was more eventful for him than the Preakness draw, which was going on at the same time. His front-running colt Bodemeister received post 7, which was fine with Baffert, who didn't get back from his hotel until after the draw. His passenger, close friend Bernie Schiappa, was streaming HRTV's telecast on his cellphone, so unlike on the highway, Baffert was up to speed.
The five-time Preakness winner said he wasn't surprised that Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli made his Kentucky Derby runner-up the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Neither was trainer Doug O'Neill, whose Derby winner, I'll Have Another (post 9), is the second choice at 5-2.
Both trainers were pleased with the draw. O'Neill said he wanted to be outside Bodemeister so rider Mario Gutierrez could track him and Mike Smith leaving the gate.
"I'm OK with 9. I'm confident that we won't be far out of it,'' O'Neill said. "If Bode breaks sharp, we'll go out to keep him honest. If Bode breaks slow, we'll go to the front. I'll Have Another can do that.''
Baffert doesn't mind the idea of pace pressure from I'll Have Another, who rallied from seventh to win by 11/2 lengths at Churchill Downs. "I wish he had chased me in the Derby,'' Baffert said. "He wouldn't have lasted.
"Every horse I run in California has a bull's-eye on it. I think 7 is a good post, and the Derby winner drew well, too. It worked out. I just didn't want the 1 and get stuck down on the inside. I don't worry about anybody else's horse. I just worry about Bode. The break is very important for him.''
Saturday's field of 11 is the smallest for the Preakness since 2007, when nine ran. Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal withdrew Guyana Star Dweej, who would have been an extreme long shot, because of an injury to his left foreleg.
Went the Day Well (post 5) and Creative Cause (post 6) were co-third choices at 6-1. They ran fourth and fifth, respectively, in Louisville. The other seven runners were rated 12-1 or higher. The rest of the field, from the rail out: Tiger Walk (post 1, 30-1); Teeth of the Dog, (2, 15-1); Pretension (3, 30-1); Zetterholm (4, 20-1); Daddy Nose Best (8, 12-1); Optimizer (10, 30-1) and Cozzetti (11, 30-1).
Baffert flew from Louisville Wednesday morning and appeared on Pimlico's backstretch at about 3:30 p.m. to await a flight that brought Bodemeister and Creative Cause from Louisville. After the vans arrived and Bodemeister was bedded down in the stakes barn, Baffert went to his hotel to freshen up and change clothes. "Traffic here is like L.A.,'' he said.
Unlike his trainer Wednesday, Bodemeister had nothing in his path in the Derby. He led from the start through blazing fractions before tiring badly inside the sixteenth pole, blowing a five-length lead. "You don't know how much that took out of him,'' Baffert said.
That's the question every handicapper must ponder.