01/08/2013 7:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Bodemeister

photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

Bodemeister flashed across the racing firmament like a bolt of lightning in 2012. Unraced as a 2-year-old, he did not make his debut until Jan. 16, yet only 3 1/2 months later went off as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. He raced just once after that, in the Preakness Stakes, before being retired, his racing career encompassing just six starts in four months. But in that brief amount of time, he accomplished so, so much, enough to be a finalist tonight for the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

Bodemeister never finished worse than second, including runner-up finishes in both the Derby and Preakness to I’ll Have Another, another finalist in this division. He won twice, including a dazzling victory in the Arkansas Derby, the performance that made him the favorite over 19 others in the Kentucky Derby. He was fast enough to finish second going 5 1/2 furlongs in his debut, yet had the stamina to win going 1 1/8 miles and finish second in races at 1 3/16 miles and 1 1/4 miles.

Bodemeister, by Empire Maker out of the Storm Cat mare Untouched Talent, was bred in Virginia by Audley Farm and was purchased at auction as a yearling for $260,000 by owner Ahmed Zayat, who turned him over to Bob Baffert to train.

After finishing second in his debut on Jan. 16 at Santa Anita, Bodemeister returned Feb. 11 and romped against maidens going a mile. He was then put on the fast track to the Triple Crown. Bodemeister, in only his third start, was a close second to the highly regarded Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 10. Five weeks later, he scored a resounding victory in the Arkansas Derby, crushing his rivals by 9 1/2 lengths.

Following that race, Michael and Tiffany Moreno purchased a minority interest in Bodemeister from Zayat. In the Kentucky Derby, Bodemeister was attempting to become the first horse to win the race without having started at age 2 since Apollo in 1882.

He almost pulled it off.

Pressed through wickedly fast fractions by the accomplished sprinter Trinniberg, Bodemeister kicked clear at the top of the lane and appeared headed to victory, but was caught in the waning yards by I’ll Have Another. “Usually I’m upset at finishing second, but I’m proud of the performance he put on,” Baffert said. Baffert decided to bring Bodemeister back in the Preakness, and though the pace was far saner than the Derby, the outcome was the same, with I’ll Have Another again catching him in deep stretch.

“The fractions were more reasonable today,” Baffert said after the race. “He just got a little late. And the winner’s a good horse.”

A subsequent temperature initially sent Bodemeister to the sidelines, and then he developed a shoulder injury that necessitated his retirement. He was acquired by WinStar Farm, where he begins stud duty this spring. Bodemeister’s dam, Untouched Talent, was sold in foal to Unbridled’s Song at auction in November for $5 million to Coolmore. And in September, her yearling filly by Smart Strike was sold at auction for $1.3 million. Untouched Talent is scheduled to be bred in 2013 to Galileo, the sire of Frankel.