04/22/2012 1:35PM

Trinniberg and the Derby Pace


There has already been a lot of talk that the addition of Trinniberg to the Kentucky Derby field has pretty much ruined the chances of Bodemeister and Hansen. I think that’s a serious overreaction.

Right here, I have to admit that I think that the Derby is about the worst spot anyone could think of for Trinniberg. Trinniberg has made seven starts in his career, and not one has been in a race a step beyond seven furlongs. His history fits his profile, which is that of a stone-cold sprinter. Everything about Trinniberg shouts that the only way he can get the Derby’s 10 furlongs is with the assistance of a ride in a Sallee horse van.

But this is America, and thanks primarily to his victories this year in the Grade 3 Swale and Grade 3 Bay Shore – both after establishing easy early leads – Trinniberg has enough graded earnings to crack the Derby field – does anyone still think graded earnings in sprints should count as much as graded earnings in routes? – and crack the Derby field he will.

Trinniberg does have high early speed. He has been on the lead at the first call in six of his seven career starts, and the one time he wasn’t, it appeared he intentionally conceded the early lead. I’m not even considering the possibility that Trinniberg won’t be on the lead in the Derby (no matter what his connections suggest), because after all, he has sub-21 second quarter mile speed and sub-44 half mile speed at his reserves. He demonstrated that last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs, a race in which he finished a badly beaten seventh, and a race, notably, won by the colt Trinniberg battled early with, Secret Circle.

Trinniberg’s speed is why there is now an even greater focus on the Derby pace. But just because Trinniberg can reel off a 45 half like breaking sticks, it doesn’t mean he will in the Derby, or that the pace he does set will be ruinous, or destructive. For one, I’m sure Trinniberg’s jockey will want to take it as slow early as he can in the Derby, if for no other reason than to conserve as much of his mount’s energy as possible.

But a huge determinant in the character of the Derby pace will be in how the riders of Bodemeister and Hansen react. I think it needs to be emphasized that while both Bodemeister and Hansen are also blessed with excellent early speed, they both have also proven that they can be effective when they don’t have the early lead. Hansen rated off the lead beautifully in the Gotham Stakes before scoring in dominating fashion. Bodemeister did not have the early lead in the San Felipe, the race that was Bodemeister’s first start after his maiden victory, and which was the fastest Derby prep this year until Bodemeister’s Arkansas Derby, and yet performed valiantly to bow to the heavily stakes-seasoned Creative Cause by less than length.

Bodemeister and Hansen are elite candidates for the Kentucky Derby, yet they could lose in Louisville for any number of reasons other than pace. But as top contenders, they should be ridden with the confidence that befits them. Just let Trinniberg go out and do his thing on the lead. If he wants to open up a quick eight lengths, let him. Don’t worry about it. But Bodemeister and Hansen might well find that they won’t be that far behind at all, because the jock on Trinniberg will want to slow it down, too. In other words, Bodemeister and Hansen should just focus on themselves, and pretend that Trinniberg isn’t even in the race.