The racing gods giveth, and the racing gods taketh away.
Just ask Barry Irwin, president of the Team Valor International stable, his trainer, Graham Motion, and jockey John Velazquez, who will team up with Went the Day Well on Saturday in the 137th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
Last year, Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom, trained by Motion, won the Kentucky Derby after getting a perfect trip under Velazquez.
In this year’s Derby, Velazquez had a nightmare journey aboard Went the Day Well, who finished like a runaway locomotive to take fourth, beaten 2-1/2 lengths by I’ll Have Another while making up more than seven lengths in the final furlong.
"We didn’t break well, and it was messed up from there on," Velazquez said. "I was so far back I couldn’t make up that much ground, no way, not on this kind of (speed-favoring) track."
After Animal Kingdom won the Derby, Irwin hesitated before committing to the Preakness. But this year, Went the Day Well was Baltimore-bound the day after the race.
"Last year, I was thinking about Captain Bodgit (who lost photo finishes in both the 1997 Derby and Preakness)," Irwin said. "The day after the Derby, he looked like he came out of a heavyweight boxing match. I didn’t want to run him in the Preakness, but I did, and he never raced again."
Animal Kingdom ran second in the Preakness, beaten just a half-length by Shackleford.
Irwin and Motion have both been thrilled at how Went the Day Well has come out of the Derby. The son of Proud Citizen had a six-week gap between his win in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes and the Derby, leading Irwin to believe he has the "freshest" horse for the race.
"He’s bounced out of the Derby in great shape," Motion said. "I couldn’t be happier with him. Another jump in the Derby and he could have finished second, so I think he belongs in the Preakness."