05/07/2012 11:00AM

Beyer: Bodemeister's effort was like few others in Kentucky Derby history

Barbara D. Livingston
Bodemeister's front-running effort was like few in the history of the Kentucky Derby, columnist Andrew Beyer says.

When jockey Mario Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby aboard I’ll Have Another, his triumph was the sort that usually happens only in corny racing fiction. Casual fans surely appreciated his saga, though they may not have recognized the other main story line of the Derby.

The Mexican-born Gutierrez had spent most of his career riding at minor-league Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C., before being plucked out of obscurity by owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill, who gave him the mount on I’ll Have Another in California this winter. Gutierrez had won only 14 races in all of 2012 when he came to Churchill Downs.

But he was seemingly impervious to the pressure of the Derby and delivered a flawless ride. Despite starting from post position No. 19, he secured a perfect trip for his mount and rallied to beat the pacesetter, Bodemeister, by 1 1/2 lengths.

His post-race excitement after the race was infectious. When an interviewer-on-horseback stuck a microphone in his face after he had crossed the wire, Gutierrez may have thanked more people in a shorter time than any Academy Award recipient in history. It was a feel-good story that NBC and its viewers surely relished.

To many serious racing fans, however, the most dramatic part of the Derby was the performance of the loser, Bodemeister. His front-running effort was like few in the history of the race.

Bodemeister, a slight favorite in the Derby, is a fast colt who was facing two very fast rivals: Hansen, the reigning champion of this generation of 3-year-olds; and Trinniberg, a sprinter who was certain to display his high speed and then run out of gas. Most people expected Bodemeister’s jockey, Mike Smith, to sit behind Trinniberg. But when the gate opened, Bodemeister broke more sharply than any of his rivals.

“He was flying leaving there,” Smith said. “He was two (lengths) in front leaving the gate.” Smith and trainer Bob Baffert had talked before the race about such a scenario, and Baffert had no reservations about letting his colt go to the front.

Trinniberg showed his natural high speed, but jockey Willie Martinez wasn’t sending him on a suicide mission. So Smith was committed to try to lead the Derby from start to finish. Over the very fast Churchill Downs surface, Bodemeister sped the first quarter mile in 22.32 seconds, a half mile in :45.39, and three quarters of a mile in 1:09.80. NBC’s commentators noted that this was the fifth-fastest pace in the race’s history, but even that fact does not begin to suggest the difficulty of what Bodemeister was trying to do.

In the Derby’s 137 previous runnings, a total of 10 horses had sped the first half mile in 45.4 seconds or less. There were some legitimate contenders among them, but all 10 of them virtually collapsed after this exertion. All finished in 10th place or worse. Yet Bodemeister kept on going.

Some second-guessers have criticized Smith for letting his mount go so fast in the early stages, but he was making a reasoned decision. Bodemeister had raced only four times in his career, and Baffert had not had the luxury of experimenting to learn whether he could be restrained to sit behind other horses. “I didn’t want to change his style,” the trainer said, knowing that the Derby is no place to experiment.

As Bodemeister started to weaken, Gutierrez had put I’ll Have Another in perfect striking position. After breaking from his wide post position, he had managed to angle inside at the first turn – he was only about one horse-width from the rail – and to sit in the second flight behind Bodemeister, Trinniberg, and others. He never encountered any traffic trouble in the 20-horse field, and on the final turn he angled to the outside for clear sailing past the leader.

Even though he had a perfect trip while the fast pace was enervating all the early leaders, I’ll Have Another finished the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.83, a slow time over such a fast track. The time translated into a Beyer Speed Figure of 101, the second-worst in the last 20 years (next to Giacomo’s 100 in 2005.) If I’ll Have Another can’t do any better than this on a day when everything was in his favor, it surely would be rash to speculate that he might be able to sweep the Triple Crown series.

If the winner’s performance was unimpressive by the historical standards of the Derby, the horses behind I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister were terrible. The hot pace should have created a great opportunity for stretch-runners to make bold late moves. Dullahan and Went the Day Well could only muster too-little-too-late rallies to finish third and fourth. The second choice, Union Rags, got off to a slow start that compromised his performance, never accelerated significantly, and finished seventh.

Well-regarded contenders Alpha and Gemologist were beaten by 19 and 30 lengths, respectively, with no excuses. This group of 3-year-olds appears even worse than the weak crops of 2011, 2010, and 2009, with the notable exception of Bodemeister, whose effort on Saturday was so good that the defeat didn’t even sting Baffert. “This is the only time I’ve run second where I’ve been happy because he ran his race,” the trainer said. “He’s a brilliant horse.”

(c) 2012, The Washington Post

R. Martin More than 1 year ago
Andy, intelligent folks realize that were it not for the Nasal Wonderhorse & Company your pick Bodemeister would LEGIT be preparing to join War Admiral & Citation & Secreteriat,... MAYBE. Even Legit ones can fail this third test----phony souped-up pretenders ALWAYS do. You have a reputation as a madman at the Seller's window; June 9th ought to be ANDY CONQUERS THE WINDOWS DAY! Good luck. I pick IHA for a 6th place finish, 9L behind.
R. Martin More than 1 year ago
Dear Andy you can now redeem yourself by picking against the Nasal Wonderhorse in The Belmont Stakes. Since the NYRA Stewards courageous and correct decision to ban IHA from using the "suspect" nasal strip horses like Dullahan, Union Rags, and Alpha will be massive Overlays, whereas the PollyAnna fool's favorite, IHA, will be the equivalent of the hyped-up Facebook IPO flop. You make mistakes here and there, as all horse degenerates, like you, me, and "the chinaman" make each day BUT, on average, your thinking is erudite and your convictions well founded. I am looking forward to your top 3 for the 2012 Belmont. Mine is the "Martin Entry" at an estimated blended odds of plus or minus 7/1: Union Rags, Dullahan & Alpha.
Robert Vaughan More than 1 year ago
G, I have read all your commends and I'll sum them up in one word " Uninteligent"
Robert Vaughan More than 1 year ago
The one sure thing about the Derby is Union Rags needs a new Pilot!
Robert Vaughan More than 1 year ago
Ray Sousa,and Leah you both are Monday morning Quarter Backs.Jerry Brown "Before the Derby" said Bode would not be on any of his tickets." Well he lost all his Money.Bode figured to Bounce after the Oaklawn Derby,arace where closers won every other race that day .Beyer was only wrong when he forgot about how "trouble horses don't show up in the Derby Touts"you had to key Bode With 5 horses and they ran 1,3,4 and6. I hope Sousa andLeah bet all their Money not using Bode 1,2 in the Preakness or all the fools who keep touting Union Rags. Drf please don't fire those 2 Knuckle Heads you use to evaluate races!thank you all for the $306.exacta and please leave Bode off your Preakness exacts again, so I can cash big again . Baffert iis the Best and Bode is his son! Dad won't let his son down. Ray you need to study more and talk less after the Race!
G More than 1 year ago
More braggerting by another faux - pro who didn't say any of this prior to the derby and who never does. He chose the losers ......again, and now says that the final BEYER numbers translate the race and horses into the worse and equals them to past derby failures of 2009,10, and 11. If we agree , then, the so called ' fast pace' did nothing more than equal poor judgments by great jockeys and their so - called 'great trainers'. The fact that the great Cal sprinter had nothing left was not that unusual, some of us were actually yelling out the fractions saying ' what the hell is wrong with Smith?' (during the Derby) Obviousl, he thought his horse was going to go the distance wire to wire..............a non racer @ 2? I don't think so...if there is any challenging speed for the Preakness another 'great sprinter will fall....again........., even though this publication's writers and Mr. Beyer ALWAYS say that speed doesn't favor the race or track, really?. They all get paid for this toutable tripe! Bode wire to wire? Depends upon the kid so.......will he have another? Maybe.........
Mark Wolanski More than 1 year ago
As far as races go, the Derby Stunk! It was a giant bore. Bodemeister took the lead, ran too fast and got run down late by a plodder. That is a boring race. Period.
Lucifer More than 1 year ago
Good Article Andy, Thanks.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
So Beyer, Do you believe your own bs yet? Sweep up the losers and save 'em all for the IRS cause that's the only way you gonna recoup. Somehow- in the next life I see you and Frank Martin in some shot and beer joint in total agreement. "Yep he really DID win, didn't he'" "He was the best huh!" Now, give your soul a shot of feel-good. Apologize to Jockey Martinez...
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
andy youre acting like an amateur,and you know it,or should know better,by stating the obvious youre ignoring the subtle nuances that separate the true handicapper from the average joe knowitall,yes we all saw that bodemeister was out there winging it ,running fast fractions,but thats his style thats the only way he knows how,he was fortunate that hansen who was sweating up a storm in the post parade and fighting his handlers before that in the paddock did not show up for the pace battle,trinniberg was never a real threat,also bodemeister was always about a lenght clear on an extremely speed biased track and had a 3 lenght lead late in the stretch and simply stoped,spend a buck ran faster the whole way and won previously ,proving that the supposedly suicidal fractions bodemeister set are not always suicidal to a good horse,how speed biased was the track well groupie doll led the whole way to an easy score and ran faster than shackleford and breeders cup sprint winner amazombie who had run around the track 1 and 2 all the way earlier,i credit bodemeisters 2nd place much more to the fact he got a perfect speed track and never realy had to fight on the lead,ill have another in contrast had to work out a position from the 19 hole,was 6th 4 wide into the turn 7 wide in the strech and still closed against the bias,dullahan too ran a great race,coming into this race i thought 2 horses stood out,ill have another and union rags,the latter obviously has to prove that he can run inside of horses but i still belieeve hes the 2nd best 3yo,but theres no doubt about who the best 3yo is and its not bodemeister.