05/17/2012 1:11PM

Beyer: Bodemeister looks best - again - in Preakness

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Alysse Jacobs
Bodemeister (right) and Creative Cause (left) ran strong races in the Kentucky Derby despite adversity. I’ll Have Another (second from left) had a perfect trip.

When I’ll Have Another defeated Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby, many handicappers (including me) thought it was obvious that the loser had run the better race after setting an extraordinarily fast pace.

But this opinion was not unanimous. Sagacious observers such as Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey and TVG Network analyst Todd Schrupp argued that the winner was the best horse. Hovdey maintained that racing fans always tend to glamorize failed efforts in the Derby, a phenomenon he described as the “cult of the noble loser.” Moreover, the blogosphere was filled with nasty comments suggesting that members of the pro-Bodemeister camp were making alibis after losing a bet.

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The popular reasoning was: I’ll Have Another won, so he’s the best horse; he’s the best horse, so he’ll win the Preakness.

Many of these people appear not to understand the rudiments of handicapping. When serious bettors evaluate what has happened in a race, they don’t necessarily focus on who won and who lost. They understand that outcomes are determined not only by horses’ talent, but also by race dynamics – pace, traffic trouble, ground loss, all the things that constitute a horse’s “trip.” They try to consider all of these factors in order to judge after the fact who ran best, because that conclusion may be the key to betting a future race – such as Saturday’s Preakness.

In the bestselling book on probabilities, “Fooled by Randomness,” author Naseem Taleb says that to evaluate a particular outcome we must consider its “alternative history” – other outcomes that might reasonably have happened. He was writing principally about investments, but the concept is relevant to horse racing.

If, in a theoretical world, the 2012 Kentucky Derby were contested 100 times, it would be run in a variety of ways and produce a variety of results. One of the less likely scenarios might be this one: I’ll Have Another gets a perfect trip after breaking from post 19, saving ground on the first turn and avoiding any traffic trouble, while many of his main rivals are encountering adversity. If they run the Derby 100 times, I’ll Have Another may get such an ideal trip only a few times; it’s wrong to leap to a definite conclusion about his superiority based on the scenario that unfolded May 5.

Handicapping the Preakness demands a clear-eyed analysis of the Derby. All of the realistic contenders at Pimlico are colts who ran at Churchill Downs, and NBC’s aerial-camera shot made it possible to see them all from start to finish. Here’s what I saw.

Daddy Nose Best (10th in the Derby) and Optimizer (11th) both “steadied,” according to the official charts, but any mishaps were either invisible or inconsequential. They had no excuses.

Went the Day Well (fourth) had some traffic trouble early in the race, raced wide on the final turn, and outkicked everybody else to finish fourth. On paper, it looks like an impressive performance. But when longshot Prospective bobbled in front of him in the early stages of the race, Went the Day Well was already in 17th place, and the incident cost him virtually nothing. His flying finish was an illusion often common in the Derby. After a hot pace, the field is slowing down in the stretch, and somebody almost always passes the dead wood with what looks like a powerful late run.

Creative Cause (fifth) raced wide all the way. Joel Rosario took him into the five path on the backstretch and kept him there while launching a mid-race move on the turn. In contrast to Went the Day Well, who did his running when the leaders were exhausted, Creative Cause was trying to accelerate while the leader Bodemeister was still strong. His three-length loss wasn’t a bad effort.

Bodemeister (second) didn’t race wide or encounter traffic trouble, but his was nevertheless the toughest trip of all. Because of the presence of the ultra-fast Hansen and Trinniberg in the field, he had to run a half-mile in 45.4 seconds to seize and maintain the lead. He didn’t have the luxury of slowing down to a moderate pace as he did when he captured the Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths. If he had been able to set a slower pace, or if I’ll Have Another had encountered some adversity, Bodemeister would have won. Run the Kentucky Derby 100 times in an alternate universe, and he’ll capture a plurality of them.

At Pimlico there is only one reason to question Bodemeister, and it has nothing to do with his talent. The colt has crammed his whole five-race career into the span of four months, and the exertions may have taken a toll on him. After the Derby, trainer Bob Baffert said, “I was worried that he might be wiped out and stay in the back of his stall for three days and sulk.” But Baffert believes his colt has bounced back and is ready to run at the level he did in the Derby.

Assuming that Baffert is right, Bodemeister ought to benefit from a perfect setup in the Preakness. The defection of Hansen removed the most formidable other speed horse from the field. I’ll Have Another will probably try to put some pressure on Bodemeister, but Baffert’s colt figures to get a comfortable early lead – a huge advantage in any race.

Who can beat Bodemeister? While I’ll Have Another and Went the Day Well probably ran their optimal races in the Derby, Creative Cause did not. Most clockers didn’t like the way he had trained at Churchill Downs; he had a difficult trip in the race itself, yet he lost by only three lengths. He is a consistent, seasoned runner who defeated Bodemeister earlier in the winter, and under neutral conditions he might do it again, but not when his rival gets an uncontested lead.

Bodemeister wins the Preakness in a runaway, with Creative Cause second and I’ll Have Another third.

© 2012, The Washington Post

Leah Demeter More than 1 year ago
So scientifically and logically speaking, if Bodemeister looks "best" with that performance, or in your language, a 99 Beyer, I'll Have Another beat your horse with a 101 Beyer, so that makes him the "best-er" horse. Where's the praise for the chesnut colt who is one step closer to very much possibly becoming the next Triple Crown Champion? This smug attitude needs some humbling... Take the words of Ricky Bobby, "If you ain't first, you're last!"
b a More than 1 year ago
It's obvious that Andrew Beyer's best handicapping days are behind him.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
hey beyer i guess the rudiments of handicapping excaped you,if you go back and search for my pre race critique of this article you will clearly see that some of us were spot on,not only on who would win but also why,your analisys of the derby was at best simplistic the sort of thing amateurs fall for,as an icon of the game and someone who has done a lot for horseracing and handicapping you owe it to your readers to do a better job,anybody could have come up with "bodemeister will get a slower pace and therefore go all the way" while ignoring the superior quality of the derby winner,the fact that he broke 19 wide,that the jockey missjudged the finish for a split second and stood up and the horse still won,that this horse has enough speed to be a lot closer if he needed to,that he was galloping around the track 2 miles in the morning at a faster clip than most horses work under urging,that there was a speed bias at churchill on derby day that helped bodemeister,that bode was not really preassured and gave up a 3 lenght lead rather easily,i made these points in a posting right here way before the race,and im no andy beyer,ive refrained from touting this horse too much fearing id jinx him or afect the odds in the derby although i did so to many friends and in a few postings even saying he was triple crown material,but now there will never be a price to be had on this horse so lets just enjoy history being made at belmont,good luck big horse youve proved your the best.
Derek Getty More than 1 year ago
You're a big hero Ray. This is a very, very good horse, I agree but he won by a jump. If he had missed by that jump, which easily could have happened without such a great ride, would you be yapping off that you're as great as the horse? Andy has a job to do and he does it, despite clowns like you taking potshots at him from the cheap seats every day. Andy had it spot on. It could have went either way and I agree, let's just enjoy it for what it is and not jump up on your high horse so quickly; you're bound to fall off.
Conrad Bredleau More than 1 year ago
Beyer's PACE analysis of the AMAZING race Bodemeister ran in the Derby was spot on. Trip handicapping is, of course, very important. One thing he overlooks is pattern handicapping..........who is improving.....who is digressing. This is where Accuracing, The Sheets, and Thorograph step in. I'll Have Another Ran his BEST in the Derby, while Bodemeister had plateaued, per Accuracing. This was barely enough for IHA to overcome the huge pace edge. And the Beyer tri did pay $35.
Dusty Nathan More than 1 year ago
The following statement extrapolated, from this Beyer article, is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what he wrote about Zenyatta when she lost the BCC on the DIRT at CD in her final start. In that race, as she was about as far behind as any horse in history to lose a photo. She was still garbage in Beyer's opinion and Blame was a champion... By the way, in all these races Beyer picked losers. "Many of these people appear not to understand the rudiments of handicapping. When serious bettors evaluate what has happened in a race, they don’t necessarily focus on who won and who lost. They understand that outcomes are determined not only by horses’ talent, but also by race dynamics – pace, traffic trouble, ground loss, all the things that constitute a horse’s “trip.” They try to consider all of these factors in order to judge after the fact who ran best, because that conclusion may be the key to betting a future race – such as Saturday’s Preakness."
Suzanne Lindley More than 1 year ago
"The popular reasoning was: I’ll Have Another won, so he’s the best horse; he’s the best horse, so he’ll win the Preakness. Many of these people appear not to understand the rudiments of handicapping." Perhaps not, but maybe they understand "tryer" and "no quit in him"? And it's not like it isn't stamped in his DNA...
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
You were right about the pace scenario, you were right about Bode's ability to come back and run his race, you were right about his being a top talent. I'll Have Another is just a slightly superior horse. My two picks in Derby were my two picks in Preakness and they ran 1st and 3rd.
Kevin More than 1 year ago
Andy Beyer had a legitimate handicapping opinion (which I too shared) and made it public...which is his job. How many of you Beyer bashers have handicapped well enough live off of it for a significant portion of your adult lives? Beyer has. How many of you have ever pulled down a six figure score(s) with your handicapping? Beyer has. How many of you could drop everything right now, and be comfortable in the knowledge that you are a good enough handicapper to NOT starve to death? Andy Beyer can.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you wash his back, too?
Kevin More than 1 year ago
So, what kind of score did YOU make on IHA, today?
Olivia More than 1 year ago
Happy for him. Why didn't i think of it? Just pick the horse with the fastest times, and sell info to everyone! 0-2 for this year triple crown races. Great job i'll have another!
Dusty Nathan More than 1 year ago
Kevin, obviously you haven't been in the press box with Andy. Be that as it may, I met Andy while he and I were both working at the Washington Star in the 1970s. I've never known Andy to "live off of" gambling. He's always held a job or jobs. It's nice to take up for him, as he had an illustrious career and has given out some big priced horses. Unfortunately, he hasn't done that in many years. By the way, I've never known any horse players who lived a 5-star life beginning with a $100 bill and a DRF. I know some who grind out money with rebates, 10 percenting and living with their mothers or girlfriends or in seedy motels. Again, Andy's done well. But this column is more emblematic of Beyer's columns in the last 15-20 years. In essence, he says that I'll Have Another got lucky in the Derby. I guess he got lucky again, eh?
Barry Rubinowitz More than 1 year ago
It wasn't that Beyer had a different opinion from many of us. That opinion was both legitimate and widely held - and all of us who wagered on IHA are damned glad that opinion was as widespread as it was. The problem was the condescending way he presented his opinion, basically calling the rest of us ignorant fools who didn't even understand the basics of handicapping. Along with the traditional fruits of victory (in this case, money) comes what is known as "bragging rights" - and thanks to IHA, we have them and he doesn't. And if you don't think he would have used them at great length had Bodemeister won, I suggest you reread the above column.
Lisa Thomas More than 1 year ago
So who was the best horse in the Preakness? Bodemeister had it all this own way and just plain got run down.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Amen, Lisa!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We understood the rudiments of handicapping. You were just wrong, Mr. Beyer. Do we get an apology?
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
And does Jockey Martinez get his apology Andrew?