05/05/2012 8:13PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Bodemeister's fast fractions take toll

Audrey C. Crosby
After setting a fast pace, Bodemeister, with jockey Mike Smith up, was unable to hold off I'll Have Another in the stretch of the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In the end, Bodemeister might have been too fast for his own good.

After setting a strong early pace – which included the fourth-fastest six-furlong time (1:09.80) in the 138-year history of the race – Bodemeister, under Mike Smith, couldn’t hold off I’ll Have Another and finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby before an announced record crowd of 165,307 at Churchill Downs.

It marked the third time in the last four years that a horse owned by Ahmed Zayat finished second in the Kentucky Derby. He owned Pioneerof the Nile (2009) and Nehro (2011). In 2010, Zayat’s brilliant Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya was declared due to injury from the Derby, for which he most certainly would have been the favorite.

“I’m blessed, how could I be mad? He’s a brilliant horse,” Zayat said of Bodemeister. “Crazy fractions. He’s a brilliant horse; thank you God, I’m very happy if you believe me. Did I want it? Yes. But I have a brilliant horse and a brilliant trainer.”

Bodemeister is trained by Bob Baffert, who has won three Kentucky Derbies, but who now has three Derby second-place finishes.

Baffert knew Bodemeister was going fast, but added “he looked like he was doing it easy. I was thinking War Emblem,” Baffert’s 2002 Derby winner.

Bodemeister was trying to become the first horse in 130 years – since Apollo in 1882 – to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. He got to the Derby with a brilliant front-running, 9 1/2-length victory in the Arkansas Derby three weeks ago.

Baffert and Smith employed those same front-running tactics in the Kentucky Derby as Bodemeister outsprinted Trinniberg to the lead. Bodemeister ran an opening quarter in 22.32 seconds – equaling the fifth-fastest quarter – a half-mile in 45.39 – the fifth-fastest half-mile fraction – and six furlongs in 1:09.80 – the fourth-fastest six furlongs.

Baffert thought that if Trinniberg wasn’t in the field, Bodemeister would have been able to go slower.

“I’ll have nightmares about that horse,” said Baffert, who watched the race in the paddock with several family members.

Taking about Bodemeister, Baffert said, “He’s a hell of a horse. It looked like he was doing it easy. He’s such a good horse. He ran hard.”
Smith said he knew Bodemeister was going fast, but he didn’t want to have to wrestle with the horse early to get him off the pace.

“I caught a flyer leaving there and I thought if anything came easy I was going to take advantage of it, that was my game plan going,” Smith said. “He’s such a free-running, talented horse. It cost me at the end, but he ran dynamite.”

Bodemeister didn’t make his first start until Jan. 16 and didn’t win his first race until Feb. 11. After running second to Creative Cause in the San Felipe, Bodemeister stamped himself the Kentucky Derby favorite by winning the Arkansas Derby. Bodemeister went off a 4-1 favorite over Union Rags (5-1).

“It’s just incredible, I think he’s a super horse,” Smith said. “Lightly raced, and to run the way he ran, I mean he won really, just somebody finished in front of him that’s all.”

Baffert, who suffered a heart attack six weeks ago in Dubai, didn’t lose his sense of humor in defeat.

“The stretch is so long, it’s way too long I always complained about that,” Baffert said. “I knew [deep stretch] when he was getting after him, he was running out of horse. I saw a horse coming, he just laid his body down.”