The Arkansas Derby Winner Was Just Too Good
All that a derby hopeful ever really needs is a spot in the starting gate along the trail. If so, the talent will take care of the rest. Attention ladies and gentlemen, Bodemeister has landed in Louisville, Kentucky. Catching a ride with the Arkansas Derby winner was stable mate and 2nd place finisher Secret Circle as well as Sabercat who finished 3rd. All three horses returned to their barns in good order and have completed the move from Oaklawn Park to Churchill Downs where they will now remain until they race again in the 138th Kentucky Derby.
Bodemeister showed up in Hot Springs ready to run. More importantly the Virginia Bred colt was ready to claim his spot in the Kentucky Derby. Entering with only $60,000 to his name it was all or nothing that would decide if he would qualify for the biggest race of his age group. Not only did we get it all, Bodemeister gave us even more. His dominance was by far the most impressive performance on the 2012 Kentucky Derby trail. There are a lot of factors that play into that statement so let’s begin with numbers behind it. – Replay
Final Time: 1:48.71 – While this is not the fastest 1 1/8 Mile time recorded on the Derby Trail it is an impressive time for a horse that ran a race all by himself. Breaking to the front Mike Smith had him on the lead before the quarter pole. Established as the horse to catch the chase was on. But to the field’s demise no one could even get within a length. By the time they hit the stretch the romp was in full swing and Bodemeister never looked back.
9 ½ Lengths – And that’s still considering that Mike Smith switched it over to a hand ride in the final strides before the wire. There are two different types of wire to wire wins in graded stakes races. First is the one where a jockey makes the smart decision to get out in front of a slow pace because he knows he will be able to fight off the challenges down the stretch. Then there’s the wire to wire win like we just saw in the Arkansas Derby. The one where a horse is so much better than the field that there’s no reason to wait, just get out front and put them away.
101, 101, 105 – Those 3 figures represent the beyer speed for Bodemeister in his last 3 races – Maiden Special Weight, San Felipe, Arkansas Derby. The 105 in the Arkansas Derby is the highest speed rating of any in the Kentucky Derby field and no other horse in the field has been able to notch 3 consecutive 100+ beyer speeds. Very impressive.
These three things hopefully summarize the Bodemeister demolition in the Arkansas Derby. The lightly raced colt turned wrecking ball hammered it home to put the finishing touches on one of the most memorable Kentucky Derby prep seasons that a trainer has ever accomplished. There have been a few Kentucky Derby champions who entered the race on the first Saturday in May absolutely perfect. The training behind those undefeated horses was impressive but Baffert’s 2012 prep season is unique. The Arkansas Derby capped off a perfect 4 for 4 at Oaklawn Park, a feat that was done with 3 different horses – Secret Circle: Southwest, Rebel; Castaway: Southwest; Bodemeister: Arkansas.
What a ride, congratulations Bob Baffert!
So what’s there to say about anyone else that tried to get in Bodemeister’s way. A good place to start is with the horses that had their derby hopes dashed. Since only 20 horses are allowed to run for the roses, unfortunately it means that there will be some good horses that can’t get over the qualification hump. Coming into the race there were only 2 horses that had secured enough graded stakes earnings to become eligible for the Kentucky Derby. The problem for the horses on the outside looking in is that those two finished 2nd and 3rd behind Bodemeister thus eliminating any other horse in the field.
- In: Bodemeister, Secret Circle and Sabercat
- Notables that are now Out: Cozzetti, Jake Mo, Optimizer and Isn’t He Clever
So what do we make of Secret Circle’s only loss at Oaklawn Park? Coming in he was a perfect 2 for 2 in Arkansas but still had not answered the lingering question of many: Can Secret Circle compete at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 ¼ Mile? If you’re basing your decision off of what you saw in the Arkansas Derby then it’s apparent that Secret Circle doesn’t want any part of that distance. He ran a great race through the opening 6 Furlongs and was in position at the top of the stretch to make a charge. Preventing him from completing the challenge was that things got a little loose in the stretch. Once Jockey Rafael Bejarano got him where he wanted to begin the pursuit Secret Circle began to drift and before he was able to return him the race was already over.
There’s some credit for him holding off the others but it’s not the biggest take away from the Arkansas Derby. Although the optimistic point of view is very limited, I still believe horses are smart enough to know when the race is over sometimes. Or maybe they know when there’s no chance they’ll catch the horse in front of them. It was Bodemeister’s Day and not only was it impossible for Secret Circle to make a bid it was for the rest of the field as well. His derby odds are definitely going to be reflective of the beating he took in Arkansas but it doesn’t mean that Baffert won’t have him prepared to bounce back in the Kentucky Derby.
It’s encouraging that Steve Asmussen is sticking with the plan and sending Sabercat on to the Kentucky Derby. After scoring the G3 $1 Million Delta Jackpot in the fall of his 2-yr-old season, Sabercat has since been a lock for entering the Kentucky Derby. With graded stakes earnings secure the only thing stopping him would be a decision from his connections. After he didn’t fire in his 3-yr-old debut – 8th in the G2 Rebel – there was a little curiosity about where he was headed. But after sticking with the plan and finishing 3rd in the Arkansas Derby, the choice was simple and on to Kentucky it is. He has a lot of work to do in order to progress enough to contend but anything is possible if you load into the gate.
So the Arkansas Derby was a huge success for team Baffert. Bodemeister is now a serious Kentucky Derby contender and Secret Circle is still moving on. It was without a doubt the most electrifying performance on the trail but that’s not to say that Bodemeister isn’t going to face questions over the next couple of weeks. But there’s plenty of time to ask so for now we will let him and his team soak it up. Congratulations to Bodemeister on an outstanding win and a very grand entrance into 138th Kentucky Derby. See you in Kentucky.
Written by: Little Brink