The Kentucky Derby Never Sparkled so Bright

April 20, 2012 04:46am
Bodemeister top story
Photo: Coady Photography
Ranking is what horse racing enthusiasts do the best. We rank our race picks, we rank horses not just against others of their generation, but against other eras as well. Ranking is how debates and conversations are made, because everyone has opinion and everyone believes they are right. Besides just ranking individual horses, racing also measures the talent and overall depth of a division by the entire crop. Many consider 2007’s sophomore’s to be one of the strongest crops in recent history, while years like 2008 and 2011, both pale in comparison to even average years.
The year of 2012 is already about to meet its first deadline for comparison, seeing as the final major Kentucky Derby preps are now in the books and the First Saturday in May is only a short two weeks out. In light of this, I found myself wondering, how does this crop of three year olds compare to ones of recent years? Are they above average, below? Are they excellent or underwhelming?
Last year, after the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, I made a statement to many of my friends, saying that I believe the incoming crop of three year olds was going to prove to be one of the deepest in years. After looking back over all the Kentucky Derby preps run in 2012, I have not altered my stance on bit. I believe this is one of the deepest, most talented groups of sophomores since 2007, the crop that Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun, Rags to Riches, and Zenyatta hailed from.
For years, injuries have plagued the major players early on in the year. 2008 saw the loss of the talented Larry Jones trained, Old Fashioned. In 2009 I Want Revenge and Quality Road, the two strongest favorites that year both succumbed to injury. 2010 Todd Pletcher lost his top prospect the dominant Eskendereya, who not only went off the Derby trail but was retired all together. 2011 lost Uncle Mo, who had been 2010’s champion two year old. Up to this point, the same cannot be said for 2012, a year not plagued by injury to favorites, but the consistency of the best of the previous year and the rise of new talent.
An amazing fun fact to prove the depth of this crop is that 8 of starters from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile are very likely to make the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby. That my friends is over half of last year’s Juvenile field, in fact it would be 62%. Another fun fact, five of those eight were the top five finishers, Hansen, Union Rags, Creative Cause, Dullahan, and Take Charge Indy. All have won graded stakes this year, two of them have won grade ones, while the other three have yet to finish out of the top three. If that does not portray the strength of this year’s crop then I don’t know what does. Besides the starters from the Juvenile, you also have graded stakes winning juveniles like the unbeaten Gemologist, Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat, stakes place Rousing Sermon, and CashCall Futurity winner Liaison all landing a spot in the Derby gate.
If the old talent coming back to run well wasn’t enough for you then I suggest you take a look at some of the new names that have popped up over the course of the prep season. The biggest name on the list is Baffert’s Bodemeister. The colt has done nothing but impress since his maiden, and after an eye popping Arkansas Derby beat down, he now owns the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any three year old running this year, a 108. There is also Mark Valeski, trained by Larry Jones, and second in both the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. Lastly, one horse that seems to be a tad bit forgotten is Spiral winner, Went the Day Well. Being by Proud Citizen and out of a Tiznow mare there is no denying that this colt will relish the Derby distance.
These are not opinions, these are cold hard facts, and these facts show that this crop is most likely the deepest crop of three year olds since 2007. We have been abnormally lucky with only two major injuries to top contenders Secret Circle and Out of Bounds, when in past years it would seem like Derby contenders drop like flies, one by one. This has allowed the best of the best, the best of last year and the best of the new talent to all come together. Making one of the deepest, most contentious Kentucky Derby fields we have seen in a long, long, time.


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Older Comments about The Kentucky Derby Never Sparkled so Bright...

Did you see the interview with Andy Beyers in the Paulick Report? Because of the low Beyers speed figures for the prep races this year, he said this crop could be even worst than last year which he said was the weakest crop of 3 year olds in his lifetime.
I think he nailed it spot on. Should be a great betting race.
The race dynamic really changes iwht colts goint a distance many will never see again, uder weight most will not carry again with a huge field, about half of which should not even be there
with 5 or 6 jockeys in the field of twenty that have won KY Derbies, the "trip" will be the key. like in '07, If Calvin can't sneak up the wood, I don't know if he catches Hard Spun.
the attrition rate has not been as high as in recent years, so more qulaity are going to the big dance this time around.
It's so exciting to see how strong this crop is and how well they have all held up and improved since running the in the Breeders' Cup.
And don't forget I'll Have Another the winner of the Santa Anita Derby who also has a very good chance at Roses!
I think this field is tough but Gemologist didnt even try in his last stakes win and still held off Alpha. He has a whole other gear that we have yet to see.
Sky Kingdom was never really a contender. It is a deep field when you look at the fact that pretty much every major Derby prep winner will most likely be there as of now. Less major players have been knocked off the Derby trail than usual.
Cold hard facts that only two major contendewrs are out??? What about Algorithms, Sky Kingdom, Fed Biz?? As for "Depth of field" it might be more accurate to describe it as an "Evenly matched yet so far unremarkable field". Very few records will be falling this year, but as a consequence the competitions will be more exciting. Here's hoping that they all stay healthy!!
ol' Luara who arailed against Smartyafter the Derby, after the Preakness and after the 1 1/2 lenght loss in the Belmont...See I told you so!!!
willkins, i am not saying we have not had injuries, however, we have had a total, including Algorithms of three so far, and Algorithms was far from a serious injury, which is a blessing.
This is the most excited I have been since 2007 for sure. There are many legit G1 type horses in this field, and very few horses that you can actually say have no legit shot at wining the Derby. I have gotten so use to the 3yo fillies being the much better crop, this year is the complete opposite. Nice piece to get me more pumped up and wishing that 2 weeks flies by.
  • Rasta · I can not say at the expense of 2007. I am seriously interested in the jumps are only 2 years ago. You know better, you are better versed in this matter. But I'd like to see more on this jump, than that which was last year. · 2829 days ago
Agree with everything except you forgot Algorithms in the horses lost to injury. Otherwise, you're spot on. This is going to be incredible.
I think you've nailed it on the head! This is a great Derby class - and the facts are there to back it up! Even beyond that, I think this is deepest Derby I have ever seen - going back to 1990. There are probably 9 or 10 horses here who could run their race - and we would say they were deserving winners.
Mike, I would agree very much with that statement, as it is something i have noticed too. The breeding of most of the horses in this race screams distance, and not the typical speed push that we are used to seeing.
  • palmcap · Your article makes me think ahead to this year's Breeders Cup. How old do you think the Classic winner will be? 3, 4, 5?? It's awfully early for that but it will be interesting to see! · 2829 days ago
it been an great season to watch, my first year watching horse racing and I been impressed wwith the level of racing these horsers are at.
Nice read Laura, and I agree this year has a very good field heading to Churchill!
I agree that this is the best crop since 2007 and another thing is that this group seems to have better distance breeding than past crops. A lot of the top 2 year olds in recent years were not suited to the classic distance, this year many of the favorites going into the Derby look like they will have a good shot at 1 1/4 miles.
So many contenders for the victory that I'm beginning to feel - will not anyone.Lol.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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