Weekend Recap: Thoughts on Ark. Derby & Blue Grass// Roundup of Derby news, workouts, jockey assignments

The final pieces are coming together for the 138th Kentucky Derby.  With one prep remaining that could affect one or two contenders on the bubble of the graded earnings list, we have a very good idea of who will be in the starting gate May 5th.  For the most part there is a lot of parity among the accomplished cast in terms of pedigree, class, and speed figures.  As many as 7 horses could be in the sub 10-1 range on the tote board come post time.

Arkansas Derby

Some felt Bodemeister was an undeserved morning line favorite in the Arkansas Derby (G1) having no stakes wins on his resume, especially compared to the other Bob Baffert entry Secret Circle who won the prior two graded Derby prep races at Oaklawn.  Nonetheless, he was still the betting favorite when the gates opened and he did not disappoint his backers. With a perfect pacesetting trip by Mike Smith, Bodemeister dealt with little pressure the entire way.  The final time was 1:48.71, over a second faster than the previous race the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses.  Bodemeister’s Beyer speed figure came back 105, which is highest among likely Derby starters.

All sounds good so far, but of course there are doubters and with good reason.  With the Kentucky Derby only three weeks away the obvious question is whether there is anything left in the tank for Bodemeister?  Oftentimes dominating efforts like this are followed up with a “bounce”, especially in the 10-furlong Derby.  I was immediately reminded of Sinister Minister in 2006, who dominated the Blue Grass Stakes by 12 ¾ lengths only to finish 16th in the Derby three weeks later.  It is unfair to automatically assume that will happen in 2012 (and to compare him to an inferior horse), but the prevalence of bounces combined with the uniqueness of a 20 horse field running 1 1/4 miles make it a distinct possibility.

Of even more concern for Bodemeister in the Derby could be trip and pace.  In the Arkansas Derby he started from the far outside post and had an easy uncontested path to the front and eventually on the rail.  In the San Felipe (G2) in March, a race he was beaten by Creative Cause, Bodemeister did sit just off the pacesetter but was still in the clear most of the way. What will he do in a crowd or even possibly behind horses?  There was no early pressure up front Saturday, but you can imagine Hansen and several others will change that at Churchill Downs.  

At the top of the stretch of the Arkansas Derby it appeared Secret Circle could pass the winner, but Bodemeister had another gear.  Secret Circle is still Derby bound and will ship to Churchill Downs Monday with Bodemeister.  3rd place finisher Sabercat impressed his trainer Steve Asmussen and will also move onto Kentucky via the same flight.

Blue Grass Stakes

Trainer Dale Romans struggled to wipe the smile off of his face Saturday following Dullahan’s victory over Hansen in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.  The Louisville native has made no bones about his desire to win the signature hometown race, and Dullahan is sure to enter the Derby gate at the lowest odds of any previous Romans starter.  It doesn’t hurt that the colt is a closer, comfortable among a crowd and splitting horses.  Kent Desormeaux earned his share of the winner’s check for his initial patience, needlework through traffic, and spurring the furious late charge down the stretch.  It will take that kind of a ride and a little luck in three weeks, but Desormeaux has been there before.  It’s also encouraging that Dullahan put in a valiant effort on the Churchill strip last November in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), where he finished 4th after a troubled start.

Hansen fell short of a Blue Grass victory and Derby favoritism by just 1 3/4 lengths.  Unlike the Gotham Stakes (G3), where he showed the ability to rate behind a pacesetter, he was up to his old tricks Saturday by bolting to the front.  The early fractions were on the quick side for a 1 1/8 mile race and proved to take just enough out of Hansen to relinquish the lead in the final strides.  It will be interesting to see how many bettors jump off the Hansen bandwagon.  The 2-year-old champion has always been in the money, proven to be a fighter, and shown an affinity for Churchill Downs, where he beat many of the same foes he will face Derby Day.  There were a lot of shenanigans regarding the spray painting of Hansen’s tail, all pretty much meant to divert attention away from the race and towards an owner. If interested to hear more you can find links to stories below.

Lots of notable Derby news Sunday. Aidan O’Brien will only ship Daddy Long Legs to Churchill Downs for the Derby, leaving behind Wrote who is 6th on the graded earnings list.  Trinniberg is also not likely for the Derby.  These two defections would open up slots for Rousing Sermon and Mark Valeski, if they can retain their ranking on the list following Saturday’s Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland// Prospective, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and 6th in Saturday’s Blue Grass is “on the fence” for the Derby, which is a surprise// El Padrino had his first workout since a 4th place finish in the Florida Derby (G1). Todd Pletcher will train the colt as if he’s going to the Derby, but will need probably one or two more defections// In not-so-surprising news, Mike Smith was confirmed to ride Bodemeister, which means he de-committed from riding Daddy Nose Best.  Garrett Gomez was named as the new jockey for Daddy Nose Best and his agent thinks they have a live longshot// more…

Arkansas Derby (G1)
Winner: Bodemeister
Jockey: Mike Smith
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Replay: YouTube
Beyer: 105 (preliminary)
Wrap-up Articles: Bloodhorse / DRF / Brisnet / TTimes / AP

Blue Grass Stakes (G1)
Winner: Dullahan
Jockey: Kent Desormeaux
Trainer: Dale Romans
Replay: YouTube
Beyer: 98 (preliminary)

Graded Earnings
Official List Updated 4/14 (Churchill Downs)

Kentucky Derby News and Opinion
D’oh-ahan (TwinSpires Blog)
Dullahan’s win deepens Derby mystery (Lexington Herald Leader)

Dullahan and Hansen- Tale of the Trakus tape (And Down They Stretch They Come)

Rousing Sermon HOL- 5F- 1.00:00- H- 6/60
Castaway SA- 5F- 1.01:20- H- 28/63
El Padrino PMM- 4F- 49:10- B- 4/12

Went the Day Well- KEE- 5F- 1.02:00- B- 32/43
Reveron- CRC- 1M- 1.43:60- B- 1/2
Bourbon Courage- CD- 6F- 1.16:00- B- 2/3

Notes and bits from web and Twitter:
#KyDerby runners I'd consider "possible": Wrote, Secret Circle & Liaison. Unlikely but not ruled out yet: Trinniberg & Drill.- DerbyMedia via Twitter

“Ramon Dominguez says he hasn't decided on Derby horse (Alpha or Hansen). Will sit with agent soon.”- Barry Abrams via Twitter

“Hansen lost the Blue Grass and very likely his jockey as well. I'll be shocked if Ramon Dominguez doesn't opt for Alpha in the KDerby.”- Randy Moss via Twitter