By Seth Kochera
It is finally time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (Grade 1).
This year brings about an extremely wide open race with over a dozen horses that have a big chance to win. There is no clear-cut favorite this year, and favoritism could go to one of maybe four horses: Bodemeister (Empire Maker), Dullahan (Even the Score), Gemologist (Tiznow), and Union Rags (Dixie Union).
Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) Winner Bodemeister is a highly talented but very inexperienced colt. He did not run as a two-year-old, but he was very impressive this year. His 9 1/2 length victory in the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) is widely thought of as the most impressive win of the Derby prep season.
Dullahan got a late start this year, but he has looked very impressive in his two starts this season. He was most impressive with his victory in Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 1) at Keeneland over Champion Hansen (Tapit). Undefeated Gemologist also got a late start to his season, but he turned quite a few heads with his game win over the highly regarded Alpha (Bernardini) in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (Grade 1).
Union Rags, the Derby favorite heading into this year, looked fantastic in his sophomore bow in the Fountain of Youth (Grade 2). He finished 3rd in the Florida Derby (Grade 1) after getting boxed in, but he came charging very fast at the end.
A dark horse that could also vie for favoritism is Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1) Winner I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley). As it was mentioned last week, the Derby workouts are so important. The workouts that have impressed the most are those of Union Rags on Saturday and Bodemeister on Sunday. One horse working well at Churchill Downs that has been a bit under the radar is Daddy Nose Best (Scat Daddy), so don’t be surprised to see him run a big one.
Let’s not forget about the fillies. The 138th running of the Kentucky Oaks (Grade 1) looks to be a competitive race itself. There was talk that On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken) could run in the Kentucky Derby, but the connections of the filly who won two graded stakes last year at Churchill elected to send her to the Oaks, where she will most likely be the favorite.
Grace Hall (Empire Maker) will have her own share of supporters due to her super-impressive 6 1/2 length victory in the Gulfstream Oaks (Grade 2). Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade 2) Winner Believe You Can (Proud Citizen) and Central Bank Ashland Stakes (Grade 1) Karlovy Vary (Dynaformer) will also be major players. Karlovy Vary will be trying to give her recently deceased sire a big sendoff his first Kentucky Oaks win.
I will continure Talk Derby To Me throughout the Triple Crown season. It has been a great road to the Kentucky Derby this year, with one of the deepest crops of three-year-olds in a few years. Many of you have been asking me for my final Derby and Oaks selections, they will be posted on Thursday evening, so don’t forget to check on TalkRacingtoMe to see them.
Talk Pedigree To Me: Bodemeister
Bodemeister stamped himself as one of the favorites with an eye-popping victory in the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) in only his fourth start. After not starting at 2, it took him two tries to break his maiden. In his first try in stakes company, he finished 2nd to Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) in the San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2). He then scored his extraordinary victory in the Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) in a fast time of 1:48.71 for the 1 1/8 miles. Now will he become the first Kentucky Derby Winner since 1882 to win without running at 2? Only time will tell.
He is by Classic Winner Empire Maker. The Juddmonte runner boasts a pedigree in rarified air. He is by Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Unbridled, and he is out of Broodmare of the Year Toussaud. Empire Maker achieved his greatest feat on the racetrack in ending the Triple Crown bid of Funny Cide (Distorted Humor) in the 2003 Belmont Stakes (G1), so the Derby distance was well within his reach on the racetrack. His progeny certainly have shown the ability to win at the top level at distances over 1 mile with horses like Royal Delta, Acoma, Mushka, and Icon Project, so stamina should be no issue from Bodemeister’s sire’s side.
Untouched Talent, the dam of Bodemeister, was at her best at sprint distances, but her dam, the A.P. Indy mare Parade Queen, certainly could win at distances of over 1 mile. Her average win distance was 8.42 furlongs. So, did Bodemeister get more of the speed of his dam, or the stamina of his grand-dam?
So we will ask the question one last time this year, does Bodemeister have a Derby pedigree? Probably. His sire certainly brings the stamina factor, and his dam brings some speed. However his grand-dam adds some more stamina. In my estimation, I’d say that he tops out between 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles. Saturday will tell us which end of that spectrum he will top out at.
Top Ten Derby Horses (Week 11)
1. Union Rags
If he goes off as the favorite, he would be trying to be the first favorite to win since 2008.
Apollo in 1882 was the last time a horse that didn’t race as a two-year-old won the roses.
3. I’ll Have Another
No Santa Anita Derby winner has won the Kentucky Derby since Sunday Silence in 1989.
Can he become just the 8th undefeated horse, and first since 2008, to capture the roses?
The Blue Grass Stakes winner has not won the big prize since Strike the Gold in 1991.
6. Creative Cause
Will Try to become just the 9th grey or roan Derby winner and first since Giacomo in 2005.
In the Breeders’ Cup era, only one Champion Two-Year-Old has won the Derby, Street Sense.
8. Take Charge Indy
Could Calvin Borel win his 4th Derby in just six years? That would tie him for second most.
9. Daddy Long Legs
No foreign based horse has ever won the Derby, can the Ballydoyle runner become the first?
10. Daddy Nose Best
Mine That Bird (2009) is the only horse to prep in New Mexico to win the Run for the Roses.
Keep an eye on: Alpha, Sabercat
Dropped from the list: None
5/5/12 – Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1) (1 1/4 miles, Churchill Downs) $2,000,000
Last Week’s Races
4/28/12 – The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (G3) (1 mile, Churchill Downs) Winner: Hierro
Seth Kochera is a graduate of Georgetown College, working in the horse industry. He studies bloodlines and racing performance and shares his knowledge with KyForward readers. After the Derby, he’ll be following the road to the Triple Crown. His email firstname.lastname@example.org.