Losing a race never feels good—especially one as important as the Kentucky Derby. If you are going to lose a race, though, you can’t do it any more impressively than Bodemeister did in the Kentucky Derby.
He is a speed horse, but the Derby was jammed full of speed horses. It was widely assumed that Trinniberg would set a blistering early pace before tiring out before the first mile was done. Bodemeister broke well, though, and found himself on the lead.
Jockey Mike Smith could have held back, but he knew he had the fastest horse in the race and he attempted to run away with the race. The suicidal pace killed the rest of the speed, but Bodemeister held on valiantly and looked like he was going to win it until I’ll Have Another made his last move.
To finish as well as Bodemeister did in the face of early fractions like that is incredibly impressive.
There’s not much to talk about here because the horse hadn’t had much of a career.
It was well publicized that he was trying to win the Derby without having run at age two—something no horse has managed since 1882. He debuted in January, and broke his maiden in his second try. He wasn’t quite good enough to beat Creative Cause in the San Felipe in his stakes debut.
Next time out, though, he ran by far the most impressive race of the year so far when he ran away with the Arkansas Derby by almost 10 lengths. It was an incredible performance that was good enough to make him the post-time favorite in the Derby despite his inexperience.
Jockey: Mike Smith
Smith isn’t getting any younger, and he doesn’t ride nearly as much as he used to. However, for my money there is no one better right now when the stakes are high.
He has won a record 15 Breeders’ Cup races and has a career Triple Crown, including his most recent win in the Belmont in 2010 aboard Drosselmeyer. He is an absolute master at judging pace, and in his two races aboard Bodemeister, he has clearly shown that he and the horse are well matched.
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Like Smith, Baffert is as good as there is right now in my mind. The charismatic king of California racing has nine Triple Crown wins, including five in the Preakness.
His most recent win here came in 2010 with Lookin at Lucky. Baffert has been red hot recently, and has obviously done well with this horse.
He’s lucky to be here at all after surviving a major heart attack in March when he was attending the Dubai World Cup.
The easiest way to tell if a horse has what it takes to shine in Triple Crown races is to look for Triple Crown race winners in his pedigree. Bodemeister shines on that front.
Sire Empire Maker was a strong second in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, and then he ended Funny Cide’s Triple Crown aspirations by winning the Belmont after skipping the Preakness. Empire Maker’s sire, Unbridled, won the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1990.
On his dam’s side, he has the brilliant Storm Cat and the legendary Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy.
In short, this horse is regally bred and has no stamina concerns to go with his unreal speed.
If you watched the Derby you know what he likes—the lead. He wants to be right on or near the pace, and he likes it to be fast. There is no saving himself for later for this horse.
In the Preakness, he’s the lone true speed horse, and he shouldn’t have any issue setting the pace he wants to unless a horse decides to take a real risk to throw Bodemeister off his game. That shouldn’t happen though—there isn’t a horse in this field with anything approaching the speed of Bodemeister.
At this point, there isn’t a three-year-old who has proven he can touch his speed.
Preakness Stakes Handicapping Prognosis
He came out of the Derby well, the pace scenario suits him well in this one, the track suits front-running horses and he’s the classiest horse in the field.
A lot could go wrong, but it’s never a bad idea to bet on the best horse in the field, and in my eyes, Bodemeister is clearly the best. It’s his race to lose, though he will have to beat some strong horses to do so.
I’ll Have Another is obviously a threat, Creative Cause has beaten him before and Went the Day Well is really coming into himself. There is a good chance that if Bodemeister wins, he’ll do it in eye-opening, awe-inspiring fashion.