From his first race last August, the Dogwood Stable colt named Aikenite has been blessed -- or cursed -- by the word "potential." Great expectations became part of his challenge each time he took the track.
He took on the best of his age group and competed on almost even terms. His name became a regular fixture in winter discussions involving the Kentucky Derby.
One bad start shattered those plans.
But Aikenite came back strong and will challenge the best again Saturday in the Preakness, the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown.
Aikenite will start out of the first pole, and has been given 20-1 odds.
"I think he has a good shot here," said Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable, which is located in Aiken, the horse's namesake.
Setbacks on the turf often come without explanation, and Campbell is willing to place Aikenite's eighth-place finish in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes -- the race that ended his Derby dreams -- in that category.
"The horse just came up short. Fifty days between races didn't suit him," said Campbell, who could not hide his disappointment after the Blue Grass performance forced him to scrap the Derby plan. "He's a better horse than (the way he ran)."
Aikenite checked out physically after the poor effort, and Campbell and trainer Todd Pletcher bought him back two weeks later in the Grade 3 Derby Trial. A strong second in the one-mile race earned the Dogwood colt a shot Saturday.
"He will have had three weeks between races, and that time frame seems to suit him better than longer time off," Campbell said.
"Plus, he will have had one week longer between races than the colts that ran in the Derby."
Aikenite's history supports the theory. He ran in roughly one-month intervals last summer and fall at age 2 with solid results. After a win in his first race, he took on Grade 1 company and ran third, second and fifth. In the latter race, he finished only two lengths behind the winner in a blanket finish.
After time off to rest during the winter, he returned to training and then to the races. His first 3-year-old start, sixth, suggested too much time between races did not work for him. His third a month later reinforced the shorter-is- better idea that became conclusive with the 50-day layoff.
"The Preakness is a totally different race from the Derby, and that's why I believe Aikenite has a good shot," Campbell said. "The time between races fits him better, it's a bit shorter and there will be fewer horses.
"He ran into some bad luck in a couple of his earlier races. He's been right there (to win) a couple of times against the best in his age class. Remember, he finished only two lengths back in the Breeders' Cup (last fall) and he took the overland route. He likes to run outside -- but not that far outside."
Campbell and Pletcher spent time after the Derby considering jockeys for the Preakness and signed Javier Castellano to ride Aikenite in the 1 3/16th-mile race in Baltimore.
"Our colt's running style is to take back and make one run, and (Castellano) is more effective on that type of horse," Campbell said.
Aikenite's style has earned more than $300,000 in his eight-race career that includes a win, two seconds and two thirds. More than $1 million will be on the line Saturday.
Campbell rarely has entered Dogwood horses in the Preakness, but his success percentage is outstanding - a first with Summer Squall and a third with Impreachment in two starts.
"We won 20 years ago and we ran third 10 years ago," Campbell said. "Maybe running there every 10 years is the way for us to go. If we're looking for an omen, that's it."