Bodemeister doesn’t scare off rivals, just scares them

by | 04.17.2012 | 3:35pm

While connections of some of the top Kentucky Derby contenders expressed confidence in their own runners Tuesday, they also couldn't help but talk about one rival in particular.  Bodemeister's nine and a half-length romp in Saturday's Arkansas Derby stamped him as the colt to fear the most come Derby day.

“Watching it from the sidelines, it was like ‘uh, oh,'” said Doug O'Neill, who trains Santa Anita Derby winner I'll Have Another.  “(The Kentucky Derby) is a wide-open race, but the way Bodemeister ran, if he were to repeat that, everyone else is running for second.”

“That was Big Brown-like,” Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin said of Bodemeister's performance. “From a pure talent point of view, he looks like he's the one.”

Donegal Racing owner Jerry Crawford, who sends out Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan, said of Bodemeister:  “With Empire Maker on top and Storm Cat on the bottom, he might just keep going.”

Of course, Crawford and the others are by no means conceding the Derby to Bodemeister, and each has good reason to feel positive heading to Louisville.

In Crawford's case, Dullahan is following the path of Donegal runner Paddy O'Prado, who prepped on “soft surfaces” on his way to a third-place finish in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.  While Paddy O'Prado won the Palm Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream turf and then ran second in the Blue Grass at Keeneland, Dullahan took second in the Palm Beach and won the Blue Grass.

“To the extent you can keep horses on soft surfaces early in their careers, I think it's good for them,” Crawford said.  “That's been the path for both of these horses, and I think it's worked out.”

Both of Dullahan's victories from eight starts have come on Keeneland's Polytrack, but the son of Even the Score has three races under his belt over the Churchill Downs dirt, including a fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.  Trainer Dale Romans said dirt isn't a concern – Dullahan checks all of the right boxes for a Derby contender.

“He can go zero to 60 like a Ferrari.  That's the kind of acceleration you need in the Derby,” said Romans.  “I don't want to sound arrogant, but I wouldn't trade places with anybody right now.  The distance will be perfect for him.”

Another Derby hopeful following in a predecessor's footsteps is Went the Day Well.  Like 2011 Derby champion Animal Kingdom, Team Valor's Went the Day Well captured the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes over Turfway Park's synthetic track.  While CEO Barry Irwin said comparisons are inevitable, the two horses aren't really that much alike.

“The main thing they have in common is they both look like they are mile and a quarter horses,” said Irwin.  “This horse looks actually like he wants to run a little bit farther than Animal Kingdom.”

Just don't expect to see a blistering workout leading up to the Derby like Animal Kingdom produced last year.

“Went the Day Well is a lousy work horse,” Irwin said.  “He doesn't care in the morning, but in the afternoon he brings it.  And that's what counts.”

Irwin said although Went the Day Well started his career on the turf in Britain, the son of Proud Citizen was specifically bred for the dirt.  But the horse did have a medical condition that delayed his development.

“He only now looks like he did when I bought him,” said Irwin.  “I'm hoping he'll do well in the Derby, but I'm sure later on, he'll do a lot better.”

Irwin said the race set-up will be key for Went the Day Well.

“If somebody goes with Bodemeister – if there's enough pace – I can see this horse picking them up and getting the job done,” Irwin said.

A colt that will likely be closer to the Derby pace is I'll Have Another.  Trainer Doug O'Neill loves his tactical speed and competitive fire.

“He's got that something you can't pick out in a pasture,” said O'Neill.  “He's got that will.  There may be horses with more talent out there, but there can't be many with that kind of drive to the wire.”

The son of Flower Alley showed his determination in the Santa Anita Derby when he outdueled Creative Cause in deep stretch to get up by a nose.  As I'll Have Another ships to Louisville a week from Saturday, O'Neill is sure to face questions about jockey Mario Gutierrez, who will be making his first Derby start.  But O'Neill has no questions about the 25-year-old, especially aboard this colt.

“He's got ice in his veins, this kid,” O'Neill said.  “As talented as I'll Have Another is, there seems to be a couple of extra gears when Mario's on him.”

I'll Have Another will have one more wild card up his sleeve at Churchill Downs.  His stable pony will be none other than multiple Grade 1 champion and $5.2 million earner Lava Man.

  • Rachel

    I’d love to see a photo of I’ll Have Another with his pony (hint hint)

  • Giacomoin05

     Check out Doug ONeils Facebook page. There are lots of photos of Lava Man “working” and on the backside.

  • Rachel,

    Here you go, some of my photos from Santa Anita with that Pony you are looking for.

  • Allynn


  • Rachel


  • Rachel

    Thanks, too, good pics

  • Rachel

    Awesome photos, by the way.

  • Terri Zeitz

    Thanks for the absolutely fabulous pictures.

  • Terri Zeitz

    I call Bodemeister Bode Monster. And the combination of him, his trainer, and his jockey can do what Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed have done in the 70’s.
    And don’t forget that Mike Smith used to be an East Coast jockey and as such he knows all of the three tracks. I think he’s also a horse whisperer as he was the only one who knew how to get Drosselmeyer to win; he understands and loves horses and gets into their heads. This is all good karma for all involved, especially since Bob Baffert just made through the big one (his MI or heart attack).

  • McGov

    Have to say that it’s a pretty classy thing on O’Neill’s part to give this kid a shot at a Derby win.  That kind of loyalty is rare these days…not to say the kid doesn’t deserve it…he certainly earned it…but so have many others before him that got bumped off their mount for the Kentucky Derby.

  • SteveG

    Bodemeister has a world of talent.

    Under the circumstances going forward, 3 weeks out from the KD, picking up 8 lbs. & an extra 1/8th m. with expected company on or near the lead, the lightly raced wunderkind has his work cut out for him.

    I’ve heard several references made to Big Brown after Bode’s win in the Ark Derby.  Playing devil’s advocate – BB had 5 weeks to the KD after the Fla. Derby, was cycling on Winstrol, picked up 4 lbs & was facing, collectively, a mediocre (being kind) field in his strong KD win.  

    I know…details.  ;)

  • The way that this Kentucky Derby is shaping up,i guess that we are going to see one of the better runs in a long time.There is more than siux or seven horses that easily can be the winner,then on top of that it will be the fist time going1-1/4 distance and that could bring a surprise.Good luck and safe run to all the participants.

  • FDF

    I’ve loved Bodemeister since he broke his maiden…this colt, in my opinion is the real deal. It’s a shame they don’t decide to decrease the size of the Derby fields…I think 16 horses would be plenty enough and that would give the best horse running each year a better shot at winning it…post postion is going to be exceptionally important this year..too many colts that have a huge shot at winning, the talent is deep and the trip is going to be everything.
    So, I hope Bodemeister gets the trip. I love the horse, love Baffert and was thrilled my favorite jockey gets the mount…Mike Smith is not only one of the great riders but he just has a way with the horses.
    Baffert has come closer to winning the TC than any other trainer since Affirmed…Real Quiet was a heartbreaker that still stings…Baffert deserves to be the first trainer since Affirmed to win the TC, and with a horse named for his son…what could be better than that!!

  • HappyHarriet

     Mr. O’Neill IS a class act and sees everyone as an equal, in my experience.  Let’s not forget Lava Man.  What a kick it was to see Lava Man serve as a workout pal with one of our prospective horses at HP.  :)  So Doug has an eye for talent, no matter where he finds it.  (P.S.  Lava Man has the run of the barn and serves himself food at will from the big rubber tubs!  LOL)

  • HappyHarriet

     Terri – Love the “Bode Monster” name!  :)  I was thinking that, too, about “Good Karma”.  It felt like a Force was pushing Bode & Mikey.

  • HappyHarriet

     Holy Cow – uh – Holy Horse!  Those pictures are absolutely prize-winning!  I couldn’t stop looking at them. 

  • michael

    NONSENSE…..9 furlongs is a world away from 10 furlongs….everyone was gooing and gaaagaaaing when Rachel won the 9 furlong Haskells…..”wow she could have gone 10 furlongs no sweat”……uhhuh….

  • Harry Buchanan

    A 108 Beyer going wire to wire in a race with NO SPEED was very impressive. Question remains is can he lay off the pace in a 1 1/4 mile race and still maintain a 3 digit Beyer. If he can we have a TRIPLE CROWN WINNER or if not just another impressive Derby prep. Why would Baffert want Castaway in the Derby??????? A rabbit for to toughen up early speed Hansen????????????? Time is running out and this could be a very interesting Kentucky Derby or as they say in Maryland “prep for Preakness”.

  • michael

    Maybe what you meant is a 108 whatever going wire to wire with the LONE SPEED IS NOT IMPRESSIVE!

  • Draynay

    Bode will not be on my ticket.  If you want to know who will win the Kentucky Derby it will be posted on http://www.heismovinglikeatremendousm... next week.  Union Rags and DNB and Dullahan are going to be tough to keep off the ticket.

  • Ashley

    I was at that race and that horse could have gone further he did not seen tired

  • Terri Zeitz

    Thanks Harriet, it seems to be the case to me too. And don’t forget that Mike Smith rode Holy Bull. And Holy Bull’s trainer/owner said to his dying day that Holy Bull was robbed of the triple crown; someone had got to him and gave him a tranquillizer before the Kentucky Derby.

  • Terri Zeitz

    And I saw Big Brown run at Gulfstream in the Fountain of Youth and at the Florida Derby. What a terrific horse he was and he was amazing. One of his fans at Gulfstream was so impressed that he followed him to watch every race he was in. If it hadn’t been for issues with his feet and that terrible Belmont ride, he could have taken it all the way.

  • Go back to Shandlers scrap heap of a blog. Geez, if we wanted our horse racing IQ’s to drop we’d be over there reading your inane ramblings. When is the last time you or Shandler picked a winner that wasn’t less than even money?

  • Don Reed

    THESE are the good old days – no more Bailey sneaking around the barns in the week before the Derby, aiming to dump a jock off a good horse.  Boy, that gave me the creeps.

  • Don Reed

    I’m betting on the siux horse.

  • Don Reed

    Alex,. that is one hell of a phtography site.  Thank you!

  • Wow

     Oh god… This moron posts here?

  • Ida Lee

    Oh no you didddn’t!!! You did not put down my beloved Big Brown!!! Bodemeister is a beautiful and talented boy but that does not mean you can take cheap shots at Big Brown…shame shame…

  • SteveG

    Ida, I wasn’t putting down Big Brown. 

    Just pointing out some differences between how he came up to the Derby & how Bodemeister’s coming up to the Derby.

  • SteveG

    Not the FOY, Terri – an allowance race earlier in the meet at Gulf.  I was sorry to see the way Big Brown was moving at work before The Belmont.

    Kent’s ride was a travesty.

  • Don Reed

    Steve, stop plyaing with matches!  Hell Hath No Fury like the Big Brown Boosters.

  • Don Reed

    Watch your step with this karma thing.  The original Bode was an American Olympic skier with an enormous potential who in the 2006 Winter Olympic basically self-destructed.  

  • Don Reed

    Unfortunately, Mr. Croll sat on this opinion until the very end of his life, so that when he finally did erupt with this never-proven allegation, he ended up looking/sounding like Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) in the very first scenes of that magnificent film, “Amadeus.”

    (Recommended: Marcia Davenport’s biography of Mozart, splendidly readable, even if you don’t care about classical music, etc.)

  • Don Reed

    They found you out.

  • Buckshotandbenny

    I have watched Mario develop as a jockey up here in Vancouver.  He is talented.  The term kid fits, but dont be fooled…he can ride.  He is a perennial winner here, and I often concede a horse if he is riding against him.  Mario can win this race, on this horse.  With that said, there is a lot of talent this year

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