With three weeks left until the big dance at Churchill, one could not have asked for any more from the final two major preps that took place this weekend. Dullahan was ultra-impressive beating the juvenile champ, Hansen, and Bodemeister could not have been more visually impressive in his scintillating Arkansas Derby win. However, while both were impressive, Bodemeister gets my nod as the most impressive performance, out of the two.
Here you have a horse that came into the Arkansas Derby with three previous races, two of them being maiden events and only one was a stakes. That alone would be a cause for concern, when considering he would be racing much more experienced horses, including Secret Circle, Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat, the ever so dependable Jake Mo, and stakes winning Isn’t He Clever. Giving that type of experience away normally proves to be the undoing of a young inexperienced horse, and yet he shrugged off the pressure and won with ease.
Number wise, in his two starts before the Arkansas Derby, Bodemeister ran two back to back 101 BSF’s. One of those came against Creative Cause, who as we all know, is considered to be one of the top Californian threats heading into the Derby. After running two huge performances, including the stretch long duel with Creative Cause, one might have their doubts about Bodemeister being able to step up, yet again, and deliver another big race. Again, he shrugged off the pressure, and not only did he run a race equal to his last two, he exceeded them. Beyer awarded this horse a 108 figure for his effort, meaning he now has the highest figure of any three year old heading into the Derby.
Dullahan is no stranger to graded stakes competition, he was coming off an effort that set him up well for a big performance this weekend, and already had an impressive win over the track suggesting that if any horse was going to be able to knock off Hansen, he would be the horse. One would also have to admit, the race was set up perfectly for him. He had a good rail running trip with solid fractions to run into. Bodemeister had never raced at Oaklawn, so he did not have the benefit of knowing the track, as Dullahan did.
As if having the 11 hole on a track with such a short run to the first turn wasn’t enough, Bodemeister bore out sharply at the break. Once Smith got him straightened out, he had to use Bodemeister so that he could clear the field and not get caught going wide into that first turn. The first quarter went in 23 flat, and thanks to the fact Oaklawn carded so many 8.5f races, and even one other 9f race, we have plenty to compare Bodemeister’s with. Bodemeister had fractions of 23 flat and a half in 46.55 seconds. Those times were right on par with the quickest opening fractions at 8.5f. Then at the 6f mark everything became the Bode show. His three quarters split was 1.11.39, the fastest split of any race over a mile. His split was easily the fastest of any race over a mile and was .01 of a second away from the fastest mile race on the card. His final time was over a second faster than what Alternation, an older horse, ran just one race before him. Bodemeister ran a huge race from start to finish, running legit opening fractions, and still had enough left to run a sub 12 final furlong. When looking at the trips the two horses had, I do not even see a comparison. One had the race set up perfectly in his favor, while the other had to do all the dirty work, after speeding from the far outside, and still had enough in the tank to not only win, but crush his opponents.
You may use the fact that Dullahan ran the fastest Blue Grass since the race was moved to Polytrack. That is a fact there is no getting around that. However, I will point out that once again, Dullahan was set up for that type of effort when Hansen set by far the fastest pace for any race run at over a mile on the card. The final times of horses that normally lay farther off the pace are dependent on the pace they have in front of them. In this case, Dullahan again had the perfect set up when Hansen was sent to the lead. Bodemeister, as I pointed out earlier, was on the lead every step of the way, even when setting a very legitimate pace. Another point, Bodemeister ran the second fastest edition of the race in the last decade. Over the last two decades, his time was the fourth fastest running.
With all of this in mind, meaning wire to wire tour de force, his 105 BSF, the trip he overcame, the fractions he set, and his quick final time, I do not see how anyone could possibly say Dullahan had the more impressive race. His time was faster, yes, but his Beyer was much lower and he received the absolute perfect set up. Dullahan did what a good horse does and that is to not drop the ball when a race sets up perfectly. Bodemeister did not have anything given to him. There is no comparison, Bodemeister, not Dullahan, had the most impressive performance of the weekend.
Agreed. Of the two big Saturday performances, it was certainly Bodemeister who provided more flash and sizzle in romping home in the Arkansas Derby than did Dullahan in rallying from far back to run by Hansen in the late stages of the Blue Grass. However, what we are talking about, and what everybody is talking about right now, is who is going to win the Kentucky Derby in 18 days. To those ends, I’ll take Dullahan.
The one class horse he beat in the Arkansas Derby was his stablemate, Secret Circle, who is likely reaching his distance limitations. It tends to make the performance look much better when the rest of the field is dropping anchor. Dullahan meanwhile, had to run down a champion in Hansen, and he did it rather easily. He also did it like a horse who will love the extra furlong of the Kentucky Derby. Since none of these horses have ever run ten furlongs before, it is easy to get too wrapped up in how good they look at shorter distances. I want the horse that will be strong in the final furlong … a horse like Dullahan.
I thought you were anti-Beyer ratings? Anyway, I fully expected Bodemeister to run well in Arkansas. He was coming into it perfectly, getting better with each of his three previous starts, and running a distance, and in a pace scenario that fit his talent and experience well. He was primed for a big effort and he delivered. It was reminiscent of many Derby favorites who fired big in their last prep. More often than not, these horses are defeated in Louisville. I am convinced that Bodemeister has a big future in front of him, but I also believe that the Derby will not be his day. Whether it be experience, too much pace, or the distance, I fear the cards are stacked against him. I’d rather look to a horse who is fresh, and has plenty of room left for improvement to fire his best shot on the first Saturday in May … a horse like Dullahan.
Clearly both horses were happy with their respective racing surfaces on Saturday. I knew before the Blue Grass that Dullahan was going to be one of my Derby plays, so I was actually hoping that he would finish well without winning, but he was much too good to fulfill my selfish hopes for higher odds. I disagree that he had the great set-up in the Blue Grass. No one ran with Hansen early, which made Dullahan’s task of running him down all the tougher. He didn’t get the outside, clear trip that most closers prefer, but rather he was covered be horses to his outside and had to maneuver through the field. I consider it to have been the perfect prep for what he will need to do in Louisville.
Against that field, all Bodemeister needed to do was get to the lead in the run to the turn, and he did it beautifully. From there he was never pressured. No one was able to add any stress to his day. Keep in mind, that as talented as Bodemeister obviously is, his lifetime record is only two of four. In other words, when he has won, he has been in cruise control and won in smashing fashion with his talent. When he has lost, he was unable to look his vanquisher in the eye and come out on top. Now, as such a lightly raced colt, I will not hold that too much against him, but keep in mind just how much stress he will be under every step of the way in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. It would seem to be a recipe for failure. And you may argue that career record-wise, Bodemeister has things heads-and-tails over Dullahan, but that does not bother me one bit. Dullahan is a different kind of animal. He took a little time to develop and he needed more distance to really shine, and now he is getting good at the right time. This has been a description of a good percentage of former Derby winners.
Time only matters in prison, Laura. The fact that both horses ran well on Saturday, with strong times, only matters in that they are proving to be horses of ability. Good to know, but I could care less about the final times as for what it means in 2 ½ weeks. You only have to look at the final time of Animal Kingdom’s win in the Spiral last spring in preparation for his Derby triumph to understand that. I will be much more interested in the times on the board for the first three quarter miles of this year’s Derby. With the field that is lining up this year, it looks quite likely that the fractions will be strong, and as many horse that are as likely to be near that strong pace as there are, I think horses that can kick it in late will have the advantage in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Hey, Bodemeister was my Star of the Week, so I’m with you on being impressed with his Arkansas Derby, but like I said that, is not what it’s all about in handicapping the Derby. I need a horse that will be thriving late while most of rest are getting really tired. Recent history has taught us that this is what wins more often than not, especially in this age of lightly raced horses, 20-horse fields, and contested early leads. Just look at recent winners like Giacomo, Street Sense, Mine that Bird, and Animal Kingdom as proof. You can bet your Indian Charlie or Bellamy Road type as the favorite, I’ll take Dullahan to roll right on by at twice the odds.