As the field turned for home in last weekend’s Blue Grass Stakes, things were looking good for the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Hansen. After breaking sharply, the son of Tapit appeared to be on cruise control as he recorded a moderate, yet respectable, -6 early speed ration (ESR) while building a comfortable advantage entering the homestretch. With a furlong to go, Hansen led by 2 ½ lengths and appeared well on his way to his fifth victory in six career starts.But Dullahan had other plans.Moving like a shot on the outside, the 3-1 second betting choice rushed past trainer Michael Maker’s colt like he was one of the many statues gracing the Keeneland grounds and won by 1 ¼ lengths.(Click on image to enlarge)1 ¼ lengths… that’s about a fifth of a second, the same amount of time researchers claim it takes for people to fall in love. Yet, in that fifth of a second I fell out of love with Hansen.Look, it’s not like I was writing the colt poems or serenading it with old Luther Vandross tunes in the first place, but I must admit, after the Gotham, I was impressed. The Juvenile champ had rallied from off the pace for the first time ever and earned a career-best 105 Brisnet speed figure that day — how could I not be a little smitten?But facts are facts and history is history — and neither bode well for Hansen.(Click on image to enlarge)Since 1992, there have been 19 horses that lost their final Derby prep after leading at the first call of that race. Of those, only one — that’s right, uno — managed to even hit the board. That was Lion Heart in 2004; all the others finished fourth or worse.Frankly, it’s not hard to understand why such animals have been so unsuccessful in Louisville. The Derby is no place for one-dimensional steeds, much less those that appear hell-bent on getting the early lead. In a previous blog posting, I made it abundantly clear that Hansen would need to forego his freewheeling ways if he was to triumph at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.“He must learn to rate,” I wrote on Feb. 9. “Don’t get me wrong, his early speed is a great commodity, but it needs to be utilized in a sensible fashion.”Sadly, in the Blue Grass, it was not utilized in a sensible fashion… and I fear it won’t be in the Kentucky Derby either.No sooner had Bodemeister, a horse named after trainer Bob Baffert’s son Bode, crossed the wire in the Arkansas Derby than the buzz began: Was this a super horse, the animal to break the curse of Apollo and win the Kentucky Derby despite not racing at the age of two?
(Click on image to enlarge)Steven Crist sure thinks so. In a column entitled “Bodemeister: Start Of Something Special?” the Daily Racing Form editor claims that the son of Empire Maker is “absolutely the horse to beat in the Derby.”Crist notes that “Bodemeister earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108 winning at Oaklawn Saturday, which is 10 to 14 points higher than the winning figures in this year's four other Grade 1 prep races for the classics: the Blue Grass (98), Wood Memorial (98), Florida Derby (95) and Santa Anita Derby (94).“I don't think there's anything flukey about the figure,” Crist continues. “One race earlier, the G2 Oaklawn Handicap, which drew a G1-quality field of older horses including this year's Donn and Big 'Cap winners, was run in 1:49.94. Bodemeister ran the same distance in 1:48.71, which is 1.23 seconds faster.”Later in the piece, Crist compares Bodemeister to another impressive winner of the Arkansas Derby.“At this point in his career, Bodemeister is reminiscent of another Arkansas Derby winner who did not make his racing debut until January: Curlin, who won the 2007 Arkansas Derby by 10 1/2 lengths with a 105 BSF in just his third career start.”OK, I get that, but the fact is Bodemeister has never faced any kind of adversity. Crist compares the colt to Curlin; I compare him to Bellamy Road.(Click on image to enlarge)Few could argue that the 2005 Kentucky Derby favorite was any less impressive in his final prep, the Wood Memorial, than “Bode” was in his. Bellamy Road earned a 120 Beyer and a 115 Brisnet speed figure for his performance that spring at Aqueduct — numbers that haven’t been approached before or since.Yet, when trainer Nick Zito's stable star was unable to wrest the lead from a host of early challengers while racing 4-5 wide in the Run for the Roses, he faded.I can easily imagine a similar fate for Bodemeister, especially since I don’t think Hansen will allow him to catch any breathers in the early going.Trivia Question (answer below): What does Bodemeister have in common with former Kentucky Derby champs Reigh Count (1928), Secretariat (1973), Pleasant Colony (1981) and Sea Hero (1983)?(Click on image to enlarge)Trivia Answer: All five were bred in the state of Virginia.
Welcome to the TwinSpires Blog. Our contributors will be continually updating posts to offer commentary, insight, advice and expert opinions on horse racing and wagering. The goal is to help you win more and become a better all around horse player.
TwinSpires' horse racing author, handicapper, and podcast host, Derek Simon of Denver, Colo. offers his insightful, humorous and sometimes controversial take on the horse racing industry. He even publishes the ROI on the picks he gives out.
TwinSpires' harness racing expert, Frank Cotolo follows all of the big North American circuits throughout the year, providing the best value picks and latest news from the sulky.
The Director of Marketing for Bloodstock Research Information Services (BRIS) and a lifelong Thoroughbred racing enthusiast and astute handicapper, Ed joined Churchill Downs Inc. following nine years as a writer and editor with Thoroughbred Times.
A writer and editor who has been following horse racing for fifteen years. Peter has written books for the Daily Racing Form Press; Crown; and Simon and Schuster; among other publishers, and regular features in The Horseplayer Magazine.
A television racing analyst for Churchill Downs, Jill has earned acclaim and a loyal audience throughout Thoroughbred racing.