05/05/2012 8:46AM

Derby Day at the Downs


Happy Derby Day from Churchill Downs.

Thunderstorms – lots of them, and loud ones – hit the Louisville area overnight, but local weather forecasters say we are in the clear for the rest of the day. The main track is, of course, sealed right now, and it is encouraging that there isn’t a lot of standing water on the surface. The conditions are favorable for drying out, and while some early races will be run on an off track, it seems highly likely the track will be fast come Derby time. As for the turf, the rain probably did it some good, because it was very quick on Friday, although the fourth race was taken off the turf. Current track conditions are sloppy for the main track and good for the turf.

I’ll check in again later. Good luck today.

11:09 - While I still marvel at the incredible hang job by Vasten in the second race, it should be noted that the track has already been upgraded to fast. It will be interesting to see, since the track was sealed overnight, is speed holds a little better than usual. Turf is still listed as good.

12:09 - The theory going around is this: Yesterday, the main track was sealed in anticipation of the approaching storm. When it was cut back open for the Oaks, it became speed favoriing, as evidenced by the Oaks one-two result. After the track was sealed overnight, it was cut back open for the second race, and it does appear that since then, speed is holding, and the inside isn't a bad place to be. In the fourth race, Night Party did set some easy early fractions, but he looked out of gas at the eighth pole, and yet was still never seriously threatened. Just something to think about.

2:15 - What a terrific race between Shackleford and Amazombie in the Churchill Downs Stakes. I don't want to take anything away from Shackleford, who overcame getting shuffled back a bit on the rail nearing the far turn, but I wonder, what was the hurry with Amazombie? At this high level of competition, seven furlongs is stretching it a bit with Amazombie. So I don't understand why Amazombie was sent to the lead early on the far turn. With distance being an issue, wouldn't a more patient a ride been better for Amazombie, and wouldn't that have kept Shackleford boxed in a bit longer?

The current Derby win odds remain largely unchanged. Union Rags remains the 9-2 favorite and Bodemeister is still 7-1. Gemologist is still third choice, down from 9-1 to 8-1.

3:16 - Hungry Island showed flashes of real ability last year at 3 and improved in her second start at 4 to win the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. And while Hungry Island probably benefitted from what the overnight rains did to the turf course, I sense we still haven't seen her "A" race yet this year. She might prove to be an important player in a female turf division currently lacking quality depth.

4:02 - Groupie Doll isa very serious race horse, but then again, I've been trumpeting her for nine months now. But she has really become a force recently, since getting blinkers, and she devastated the Humana Distaff field, not only running faster than Shackleford did winning the Churchill Downs Stakes, but also breaking the track record. The older female division has been loaded all year. It took a hit with the retirement of Havre de Grace, but it is still an extremely strong division. And Groupie Doll is an important player in it at least in races up to a mile.

4:55 - For the second time in two days, a turf stakes here that looked like it was loaded with speed was won in front-running fashion. Yesterday it was the American Turf. Today it was the Woodford Reserve Turf Classsic.

Even if you thought Little Mike was faster early than Turbo Compressor and Get Stormy and would outrun them for the lead, which was no cinch, the latter two still figured to apply enough pressure to set the Woodford Reserve up to be won from off the pace. Well, that certainly didn't happen. Incredibly (to me, anyway), the riders of both Turbo Compressor and Get Stormy declined to put any pressure at all on Little Mike, allowing him to slip off to an unmolested early lead. That's how Little Mike engineered his implausible upset.

Can't  turn the page to the Derby quickly enough.

5:30 - The announced Derby Day attendance is a record 165,307.

6:37 - I'll Have Another will go down as the winner of Kentucky Derby 138, and he deserves plenty of credit for winning from a 19 post that seemed a tough draw for him, and for winning from farther off the pace than he had ever been in his past representative performances.

But man, let me say what is sure to be said by so many after this Derby: What a monster race Bodemeister ran in defeat. For Bodemeister to finish second after setting that insanely fast early pace suggests that he is indeed a very special colt - quite likely, with all due respect to I'll Have Another, the best of his generation. But I wouldn't expect Bodemeister to prove that in the Preakness, or any time soon. He had a busy schedule to make the Derby, and with his gut wrenching performance Saturday, I would guess he is going to need more time to recover than a mere two weeks.

As for my pick, Dullahan ran well to just miss getting second from Bodemeister. And while he isn't in the same class as Bodemeister, I think Dullahan proved that he can indeed handle dirt.

Anyway, there will be a lot to digest from this Derby later on. But for now, thanks for reading.

Ron Gillaspie More than 1 year ago
Message for Matz!!!! Please don't spoil the fine job you've done with Union Rags. It's not your fault, or the jockey and horses fault for what's happened in the last two races. You've still got a fresh horse after running only about a half mile in the past two races. Up ahead, I see four wins and an eclipse award for Rags. "From Rags to Riches" you might say!!! Go to Maryland, then to New York and also run the Travers and BC Classic. Let Julien ride! Noone wants to win on this horse more than him. Let UR take up where Barbaro left off. There's a great story left for you, the owner, Julien, Union Rags and the horseracing industry. Pray for better luck on the draw and avoid the bullying early in the race. Get him out closer to the pace and avoid the herd instinct of all the other horses. You can do it!!!!
George Cernansky More than 1 year ago
Are you kidding me? Get JL off this horse faster than Bodemeister went the first mile in the Derby. Put Nakatani on this horse and he'll win the Preakness.
Stuart More than 1 year ago
Bodemeister: :45.1, 1:09.4, 1:35.0, 2:02.1; last 1/4 in :27.1 Spend a Buck: :45.2, 1:09.3, 1:34.4, 2:00.1; last 1/4 in :25.1 Well, unless Bode was the second coming of Spend a Buck, and that one was certainly bred to go 10f with speed, perhaps a slightly less frenetic early pace or even a rest between 6 and 8 f where jocks usually rest a front runner before asking for his run, and Bode has enough in the tank to win. If they keep allowing the horse to run at his own whim as a passenger than I really cannot see Bode beating horses he COULD beat at classic distances, given a more reasoned ride. Especially a forwardly placed speed stalker (E/P 7) like IHA, who will always sit just far back enough to avoid Bode's pace. Part of being a great classic racehorse is being able to win with your form. Spend a Buck could do it, Bode could not. Period. He almost was caught by Dullahan. Normally a horse with Bode's form is perfect for the Belmont Stakes. If they cannot slow him down, forget it. The pace is usually slower and horses stay on in the BS.
kingsailor2 More than 1 year ago
Chris Butler More than 1 year ago
Come on, granted he went fast early but, the last half mile in 53 seconds, how come nobody is mentioning that?
Kyri Freeman More than 1 year ago
I also had bet Dullahan and was proud of how well he finished. Maybe the Belmont for this big long-striding colt? Couldn't help but notice, though, that Went the Day Well was running on like a rocket at the end (genuinely, I think -- i.e. I don't think the ones in front of him were stopping all that much). The top five here ran well, I thought. If Bodemeister were mine I would wait for Saratoga.
Stuart More than 1 year ago
Bode is never going to win at 10f setting those kinds of fractions. Even Hard Spun was under more control and actually had a better pedigree for 10f IMO. And there is no Curlin or Street Sense in this group. So, Bode is the best IMO of what I have seen at this crop for classic distances. I think Hansen might be the best miler IF they let that horse run and give him his head and allow him to work hard and fast in his breezes (bullets) to take the edge off of him. I agree for classics Bode is likely the best and he ran his eyeballs out despite being left to his own devices under no hold whatsoever. He literally cooked himself up front and ran his own feet out from underneath him in the final sixteenth. Bode would be ideally suited for the Belmont but they simply cannot allow the horse to dictate his own pace with no regard to how fast he is going. The last time I checked this is horse racing and a jockey can rate a horse on the lead...it is not greyhound racing. I am the biggest fan of letting speed run. But Bode simply went about 1-2 lengths to fast all along that backstretch and 1:09 and change is ridiculous, just like it was ridiculous when Hard Spun did it in the Preakness. But his excuse was being moved too soon and FFC and Xchanger. Bode's excuse is that he runs too fast to stay 10f. So, don't expect Bode to run another 1:09 and stay on at Pimlico. If anything, that track is playing fair this weekend. He has the ability to win at a classic distance, but I am now doubting if this horse can rate and win anything, and is simply too fast for 10f.
josha0105 More than 1 year ago
Churchill track was speed favoring, well at least I made money on I'll Have Another and Bodemeister. I think I'll Have Another has a shot to be a TC contender. http://handicrapper.blogspot.com/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I'll Have Another beat Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby, all the handicapping gurus said Creative Cause was the best horse in that race. Now they are saying the same thing again, that Bodemeister was the best horse in this race. When is this horse going to be the best hose in the race? I hope Watchmaker can at least put him higher than 7th on the watch list now.
OwenJ More than 1 year ago
Whatever happened to Creative Cause in the Derby? I thought he got an exceptionally poor ride, going seven to eight wide most of the trip, prompting me to speculate that he ran over 11 furlongs! Hey guys what are your thoughts? He beat Bode and should have beaten IHA in the Santa Anita Derby so what happened Saturday in the Derby apart from the poor ride?
Nick More than 1 year ago
I tell you why Creative Cause lost the race. It is because he need his blinkers again. His trainer took his blinkers off because he listened to his jockey Rasario. I don't know why these trainers listen to jockies. Old time trainers never follow their jockey how to train their horses. When jockey George Velasques told trainer Buddy Delp to put blinkers on Spectacular Bid before the Flemingo Stakes, Delp fired him on the spot and put Ronny Franklin on Bid. I think the Bid was the best horse who ever lived. He broke the track records from 4 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 mile. That is another story. Getting back to Creative Cause, until they put the blinkers back on him I don't think he will perform his best effort. PLEASE MIKE PUT THE BLINKERS ON. i hope the owner read this.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Looks like the strength of the 3 year olds was out West. They run 1-2, 3 of the top 5, 5 of the top 8, 6 of the top 10. Even Liaison(6th) and Rousing Sermon(8th) finished in the top 8.
Ray More than 1 year ago
If dullahan runs in the Preakness, he will win.
Nick More than 1 year ago
I think you forget what happned to Paddys Prado two years ago. He had the same trainer the same rider, After he fineshed 3rd in Derby he was off the board in Preaknes. You know why, synthetic or turf horses they tend to prefer longer distance than the Preaknes distance. I think if he run he is a throw out. If Creative Cause put his blinkers on he got a better shot than Dullahan.