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Can Bodemeister hold up after Derby?
May 18, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
I was so close. So close.
And I was so sure Bodemeister was the horse to beat. And for all but 100 yards of the Kentucky Derby, I was an absolutely genius. But like most of my attempts to prove my genius to the world, the final 100 yards doomed me. I seriously should get a license plate for my car that says JENIUS, because I'm always that close to proving it.
Now, my Derby picks weren't all that bad. My superfecta selection had I'll Have Another, Bodemeister and Dullahan in it, and those three took the top three spots. If we can just ignore that I had Union Rags taking third after saying I wouldn't pick him with a 10-foot pole, I'd really appreciate that. And, if you took my exacta pick of Bodemeister and I'll Have Another and boxed it, a $2 wager would have paid just over $300. Not a bad return on a small investment.
But making picks for today's Preakness Stakes is far different than making picks for the Derby. First, there's a much smaller field with just 11 horses running as compared to the full field of 20 in the Derby. Then you have three horses running today that didn't compete in the Derby and have morning-line odds of 30-1. So you're already narrowing your field of contenders quite considerably, whereas with the Derby you had no less than nine legitimate contenders that were capable of winning the race.
Today, I'd say there's three with potential for four.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli install Bodemeister as the 8-5 favorite for the Preakness today. Even if the Bob Baffert-trained horse was the best horse on the track at the Derby for all but 100 yards, doesn't the consideration have to be paid to Derby winner I'll Have Another to be the favorite? Apparently not.
And it's hard to blame Carulli for making that decision. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness is 1/16-mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby. That 1/16-mile is equal to 330 feet ä or just over 100 yards. And who was leading the Derby with 100 yards to go? That's right, Bodemeister.
Each of Bodemeister's splits in the Kentucky Derby was the fifth-fastest split in Derby history. And while that is all likely the basis for Carucci's morning-line odds, it all has to be taken into consideration very carefully.
Jockey Mike Smith ran Bodemeister ragged during the Derby. He pushed him from the start, even pulling him ahead of pacesetter Trinniberg from the first turn. And Bodemeister's hair-on-fire run came just three weeks after running in the Arkansas Derby. So he's rested about only about half the time a normal elite racehorse does over the last six weeks.
Therein is where the concern lies in the Preakness today. It's clear that Bodemeister and I'll Have Another are the head-and-shoulders favorites to take the top two spots today. But you wonder if after a run like the one the two horses put together in the Derby will allow either of them to run that kind of race again.
With all that in mind, here's my outlook for today's Preakness Stakes:
Favorite to win
Despite all the conventional wisdom that would tell you not to pick this horse, I'm ignoring it all. With 300 yards to go in the Derby, Bodemeister led a tremendous field by five lengths. On a warm day where Mike Smith just let the horse run as he may, the speed, the heat and the distance of the race became just too much for Bodemeister to handle. It was the best horse in the field two weeks ago, and it's still the best horse in the field today. Without the likes of Trinniberg and Hansen in the Preakness field, the race lacks true pacesetter type horses. That means Bodemeister and I'll Have Another can run the race they want to. They won't be forced to get out in front of the field and will be allowed to save a little strength for the stretch run. As long as they can hold up from hellacious race they ran two weeks ago, Bodemeister and I'll Have Another should be neck-and-neck yet again down the stretch.
Longshot to consider
Teeth of the Dog
I'm not advising making Teeth of the Dog your pick to win. But in your exotic picks ä your exactas or trifectas ä he might be a solid choice. This is a horse that can't be forced to run hard early. He has to be able to maintain his pace and try to make a push down the stretch. He's not a closer of a horse, but is strong and can be a threat if jockey Joe Bravo has any reserves in the tank to push alongside the favorites. This is a horse that fared very well against a field of Derby horses during the Wood Memorial and with the right break could be a surprise finisher in the top three.
Non-favorites to keep an eye on
The 1 3/16-mile distance is probably a perfect fit for this Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher. He was a popular pick coming into the Derby as a middle-of-the-pack horse that could make that charge to the front. But keeping up with the pace that was set by Bodemeister just wasn't a fit for him. Now that they're into the shortest race of the Triple Crown and there's not a mass of 20 horses in the field, this could be Creative Cause's time to shine. He clearly doesn't have the overall power and speed to beat the two favorites, but if they two favorites falter near the end, it could mean a nice upset for Santa Anita Derby runner-up.
Went the Day Well
John Velazquez and his horse were caught up in the hectic start of the Kentucky Derby and had to make an eight-wide run at the stretch in order to finish fourth. It was a tremendous run considering that without being tripped up at the start, Went the Day Well very well could have been there at the end with Bodemeister and I'll Have Another. Like Creative Cause, Went the Day Well is going to be a trendy pick among bettors, and for good reason. He's a late runner with a great reserve to give Velazquez extra push when needed.
To win: Bodemeister
Exacta: 1, Bodemeister; 2, I'll Have Another
Trifecta: 1, Bodemeister; 2, I'll Have Another; 3, Creative Cause.
Superfecta: 1, Bodemeister; 2, I'll Have Another; 3, Creative Cause; 4, Teeth of the Dogô
Mitch Rupert is a sports writer for the Sun-Gazette. Reach him at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.
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