04/18/2012 12:38PM

New Favorite in Derby Watch


The next-to-last Derby Watch of the year will be posted today (Wednesday), and for the first time all year, it will have a new Derby favorite.

For those who don’t know, the 20 horses Jay Privman and I list weekly on Derby Watch are ranked according to future book odds set by yours truly, and not by any personal preference. Since this year’s first Derby Watch over two months ago, Union Rags has been ranked first as the future book favorite. But he has now been supplanted by Bodemeister.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders, profiles, odds and comments]

Right here, I should say that I agree with what seems to be the majority thought that it’s tough calling the favorite for the Derby at this moment. But I do feel it will be between Bodemeister, Union Rags, Creative Cause, and maybe – maybe – Gemologist. I don’t think it will be Hansen. I think he bowed out of the potential favorite’s role when he lost in the Blue Grass. And I don’t think it will be Dullahan no matter what his trainer, Dale Romans, says, because too many people (whether rightly or wrongly) question his ability on dirt.

The Kentucky Derby favorite could still be Union Rags or Creative Cause because they seem to have big fan clubs, and Creative Cause, after all, beat Bodemeister last month in the San Felipe. And I wouldn’t be shocked if Gemologist was favored because he is undefeated and a two time winner at Churchill. But I don’t sense Gemologist has as large a constituency as either Union Rags or Creative Cause, and you really don’t hear much talk about the Wood Memorial he won.

There is still plenty of time for things to change in the train up to the Derby. Injuries – either horse or jockey – a change in the pace scenario, or an incredible workout could have a profound affect on Derby odds. But right now, I think Bodemeister is the Derby future book favorite. Here’s why:

The fact that Bodemeister will be trying to become the first in 130 years to win the Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old is a big consideration for me. Since he is not merely attempting to make history, but actually has an excellent chance to do it, means people are going to talk a lot about the 2-year-old thing in the lead up to the Derby. That will keep Bodemeister’s name in the forefront with the public.

Certainly a huge factor has to do with why Bodemeister has such a good chance at making history: His performance. Bodemeister has earned three straight triple-digit Beyer Figures. Only four other Derby candidates have broken the triple-digit Beyer barrier, and they each did it only once. There is a distinct possibility that Bodemeister simply clearly better than everyone else, which is as good a reason as any for him to be the chalk.

Finally, while I think that the heart attack Bob Baffert, Bodemeister’s trainer, suffered in Dubai just a few weeks ago was shocking and unfortunate, it could play a lesser role here. The fact that Baffert is now recovering makes for a good feature story that will be oft-repeated in many outlets. The result will also help keep Bodemeister’s name prominent in the public’s consciousness, and that will translate into betting support.