04/25/2012 3:06PM

Kentucky Derby notes: Zayat sells minority stake in Bodemeister; Liaison works

Barbara D. Livingston
Michael Moreno, who races as Southern Equine Racing Stables, has purchased a minority stake in Bodemeister.

Both on and off the track at Churchill Downs on Wednesday, the Bob Baffert barn was the newsmaker, with a partial interest being sold in Bodemeister, the likely favorite for the May 5 Kentucky Derby, and Liaison, Baffert’s other Derby runner, working six furlongs.

A minority interest in Bodemeister, the Arkansas Derby winner, was purchased Wednesday by Michael Moreno, who races as Southern Equine Racing Stables. Moreno has acquired a number of top-class broodmares in recent years and said he bought into Bodemeister as part of his desire to now move into the stallion game.

“We obviously spent a considerable amount of money,” said Moreno, who declined to reveal the price he paid to Ahmed Zayat, who retains the majority interest in Bodemeister, “but we’ve been building up a quality broodmare band, so this is the next step. This is the first of what I hope will be a few more deals to buy a stallion prospect, or acquire an interest in one.”

Zayat bought Bodemeister as a yearling for $260,000.

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Bodemeister is by Empire Maker, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, and he is out of a Storm Cat mare. Empire Maker was sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association at the end of 2010.

“His Arkansas Derby showed he’s arguably the most-talented of the 3-year-olds, and he’s the fastest of the 3-year-olds, and he’s got a wonderful pedigree,” Moreno said of Bodemeister. “I wish Empire Maker’s bloodlines were still in the United States. I wish he hadn’t gone overseas. Bodemeister’s pedigree combines speed and stamina. When you have speed and stamina, that’s the ultimate for a stallion.”

Bodemeister is the first horse Moreno and Zayat have owned in partnership. Zayat has finished second in the Derby twice in the last three years, with Pioneerof the Nile (2009) and Nehro (2011). He also had the early favorite for the 2010 Derby in Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya, who was scratched the week of the race and was subsequently retired without racing again.

Liaison, who has disappointed since his victory in December in the CashCall Futurity, arrived in Kentucky on Monday and worked six furlongs in 1:12.92 on Wednesday morning. He most recently was sixth in the Santa Anita Derby.

“He hated the track at Santa Anita,” Baffert said. “It was too hard for him. He seems to be getting over the track fine here. He’s healthy, looks good, and he wants to sit back and come running, so the race could set up well for him.”

In other Derby developments Wednesday:

◗ Isn’t He Clever, who had been the bubble horse, was taken out of consideration for the Derby, trainer Steve Asmussen said.

◗ Isn’t He Clever’s defection makes Optimizer the next horse in line to get into the Derby field, should any of the top 20 defect. Entries are taken Wednesday. There are four also-eligibles this year, though it is now unlikely as many as 24 horses will be entered.

◗ Trainer Doug O’Neill said that I’ll Have Another, the Santa Anita Derby winner, had shock-wave therapy on his back.

“The legal, licensed machinery is great therapy for backs,” O’Neill said. “We’ve done it with him a few times in the past.”

The treatment, though legal and regulated in California, does require a horse to be placed on the state racing board’s veterinarian list for 10 days, during which time he cannot race. According to Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California racing board, I’ll Have Another was placed on the list April 21 and comes off the list May 1, four days before the Derby. As of Wednesday, there were 28 horses on the racing board vet’s list for shock-wave therapy, including such well-known runners as Midnight Interlude and Richard’s Kid.

I’ll Have Another is scheduled to work at Hollywood Park on Friday, then fly to Kentucky on Saturday, O’Neill said.

◗ Hero of Order, the Louisiana Derby winner, is still under consideration for the Derby, according to trainer Gennadi Dorochenko.

“No decision yet. We have plenty of time,” Dorochenko said.

Hero of Order was not nominated to the Triple Crown and must be supplemented to the Derby for $200,000. Because he was not nominated, he cannot knock out any horse who was nominated, so he essentially goes to the back of the line. But with fewer than 24 horses likely to be entered, Hero of Order could, at the very least, wind up on the also-eligible list if supplemented.

◗ At Belmont Park, a good-feeling Alpha reared up and unseated his exercise rider, Ricardo Ponce, coming off the training track after a 1 3/8-mile gallop. His groom had the reins, so Alpha did not get loose. Alpha remains on schedule to breeze at Belmont Park on Saturday. His connections, owner Godolphin Racing and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, have not firmed up a rider and will likely wait until after the weekend to do so. One rider no longer under consideration is Eddie Castro, who has committed to ride Winter Memories in the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay at Belmont on Derby Day.

– additional reporting by David Grening, Marcus Hersh, and Mike Welsch