Some random thoughts on this year’s Kentucky Derby:
- Wow!! That is some horse. Not the winner, I’ll Have Another, but second-place finisher Bodemeister. As he was carving out some of the fastest fractions in Derby history – 22 1/5, 45 1/5, 109 4/5 – I was thinking “he won’t be around at the end.” At the top of the stretch as he opened a 3-length lead, I switched to “this will be one of the most impressive wins ever.” Alas, he was caught by I’ll Have Another and the superb ride given him by first-time Derby jockey Mario Gutierrez. I hope he doesn’t run in the Preakness. I realize that a classic win does a lot for breeding value, but this guy is clearly the best of his generation, a potential superstar who could be Horse of the Year. After not racing at two, and then scintillating efforts in the Arkansas and Kentucky Derbies, he could use a small break.
- So just how good was this Derby field? The conventional wisdom before the race was that this was one of the best fields in years. While I thought it was one of the most competitive ones in my memory, I had serious questions about how good it was. Only four members of the field had ever run a triple digit Beyer speed figure, with Bodemeister’s three such races equaling the total from the rest of the starters. Only six had a last-race figure higher than 95 in their last start. Go back to last year’s Derby and we see a remarkably similar pattern, with the sole exception being Bodemeister’s Arkansas Derby 0f 108. Andy Beyer’s take on the 2011 field was that it “could be the worst in decades…. not one of the starters would be a serious contender in an average Derby.” The winning number this year? 101. And keep in mind that only one of 19 entrants could catch the enervated Bodemeister.
- Big props to the Oaks and Derby coverage of NBCSC, formerly Versus. I bad-mouthed the decision to go with the network when it was announced a year ago, but it was the best horse racing telecast I have seen. Jerry Bailey is a tremendous analyst whose assessment of the trip needed by Union Rags convinced me to not wager a nickel on the horse who was the favorite almost to post-time. I’m even reconciled to the NBC coverage. Even though the Derby broadcast began with a half-hour of asking “celebrities” where they got their outfits, I realized that few serious bettors are tuning in right before the race goes off to get serious information. And in what may be a first, they actually showed the turf race that precedes the Derby.
- And speaking of the Oaks, major props to Rosie Napravnik who is the first woman rider to win the race for three-year old fillies. She just missed winning last year, and this time brought 14-1 shot Believe You Can home, edging John Velazquez in the process.
Don’t forget to look for the Blue Ribbon Analysis on this site before the Preakness.