April 19, 2012

Bodemeister romps in Ark Derby, Unbridled potential

Vindication was a son of Seattle Slew who was voted champion two year-old colt in 2002. But there is another sort of vindication brewing about now. That is the goal of Bodemeister to make up for the two narrow defeats in America's Greatest Race suffered by his father, Empire Maker, and brother, Pioneerof the Nile. His male ancestors are descendants from the potent Classic winning bloodline via Fappiano. I will be the first to question out loud what several thoroughbred historians may be thinking after recently watching the grossly historical inaccurate (but inspirational story nonetheless) movie on HBO for the umpteenth time... wasn't Secretariat also foaled in Virginia?

Audley Farm Inc. in Virginia is credited as breeder of Bodemeister, the imposing $260,000 Keenland yearling purchase son of Empire Maker out of the Storm Cat mare, Untouched Talent. In two of his four career races, that is exactly what Bodemeister has been - untouched talent. He has the speed to grind his opponents into submission and the stamina to reload in the stretch. Veteran rider Mike Smith appears to be a great addition to this horse by trainer Bob Baffert, who utterly dominated the Oaklawn Park winter meet like no other trainer in its illustrious history, including D. Wayne Lukas. The silver fox won 6 of 9 entries with his California shippers in 2012 and is now 16 out of 25 lifetime at the Spa of the South, predominantly at the stakes level.

What I am really amazed by is how many "astute" handicappers are expecting a bounce race just because Bodemeister is so lightly raced and coming off three consecutive huge efforts. I took a similar stance towards a horse named Nehro last year and it cost me dearly as my long-shot pick Animal Kingdom won the race and the only exacta I had was a $2 wheel with the winner. Nehro was the obvious choice coming into last year's Derby -- he was on top of his game and had handled the class test more than adequately in the Louisiana and Arkansas Derbies despite his first career race just months removed on Dec. 12th. Not only has Bodemeister had two monster wins, he also got beat less than a length by the most proven horse in this 3YO crop, Creative Cause, in the San Felipe stakes in his first race beyond one mile. One could certainly make the argument that Bode is more suited for 10 furlongs of The Derby than CC based on their breeding and is still improving with each start.

But I will point out not only lightly raced Nehro from last year, who some may argue as a closer would more predictably run better in the Derby, but what about Barbaro's dominant 2006 performance and Big Brown's cakewalk with only 3 lifetime starts in 2008? Their speed favoring style turned many away in the Derby, yet they were each able to sit off a couple of horses early and draw away from the field on the far turn with their high cruising speed. Surely Mike Smith being the savvy rider he is knows not to gun Bode to the front as Bode is already accustomed to sitting off horses and has done so in two of his four career starts. With an outside post and a nice stalking trip, look for Bodemeister to wipe Apollo off the record books as the last horse to win The Derby without having run at age 2. This will be one of the final hurdles to fall, the previous "jinxes" being only two preps in current year, above 4.0 dosage index, being a gelding or filly, five+ week since last race, etc.

So my plea to my fellow handicappers is don't be an idiot like I was in the Arkansas Derby and "hope" that this clearly superior animal won't run his race on the first Saturday in May. I'd hate for you to look this gift horse in the mouth!

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