Race of the Week 2017

Arkansas Derby Legend: Bodemeister

Bodemeister top story
Photo: Coady Photography
It could be easily argued that in the 21st century, no Kentucky Derby prep has carried more importance than the Arkansas Derby. The bustling resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas has consistently drawn quality horses, and in turn, Oaklawn Park’s signature race has been a great identifier of the crop’s top horses. In the past nine years alone, the Arkansas Derby has crowned future champions, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lawyer Ron, and Curlin, but perhaps none of them roared down the Oaklawn stretch with as much authority as the most recent winner. Proving that you do not need to be old to be a legend, Bodemeister is the subject of today’s Arkansas Derby Legend.
Bodemeister’s career may have flashed across the national racing landscape much too quickly, but what he accomplished in a matter of four short months cannot be soon forgotten. Not making it to the races as a juvenile, the powerful son of Empire Maker finally started for the first time on January 16. Out of a Storm Cat mare named Untouched Talent, Bodemeister was bred in Virginia by Audley Farm and was sold as a yearling for $260,000.  Purchased by Ahmed Zayat, the new Zayat Stables colt was sent to three-time Kentucky Derby winner, Bob Baffert to train. That debut performance turned out to be a loss, as the bay colt finished second to eventual stakes winner, American Act, in a fast 5 ½ furlong maiden race at Santa Anita, but it would be last time that the name Bodemeister was not familiar to most racefans.
Bodemeister took care of that by setting the Santa Anita track on fire with an inspired maiden breaking performance on February 11. The 9 ¼ length drubbing of a field full of well-liked youngsters going a mile created quite a stir from coast-to-coast.  All of a sudden, Bodemeister was a hot new star on just about everyone’s Kentucky Derby list. On March 10, he continued his speedy ascent up the three-year-old division with a game second to one of the most highly regarded sophomores in the land, Creative Cause. In finishing within three-quarters of a length against the much more experienced foe, Bodemeister cracked the 100 point Beyer barrier for the second time in his brief career. It also confirmed the belief that this young horse was indeed Kentucky Derby material.
Baffert decided to send his new star out of town to best prepare for the Run for the Roses, and Hot Springs would be the destination.  Sent off as the 2-1 favorite in a full field of eleven, Bodemeister would scorch the Arkansas earth that April afternoon. Leaving his rivals with nothing to do but search for their former egos, the Zayat runner, piloted for the first time by Mike Smith, sprinted under the wire a 9 1/2 length winner of the Arkansas Derby.

After his Arkansas magnum opus, the question was no longer whether Bodemeister was good enough, but rather if he could carry his high cruising speed successfully the full ten furlongs of the Kentucky Derby. Many thought he could, and Bodemeister was sent off the Derby favorite despite trying to become the first horse since 1882 to wear the roses after not having started as a two-year-old.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby did not exactly set up well for Bodemeister, what with eventual sprint champion Trinniberg hounding him through fractions thought to be too fast to last in the Derby. But Bodemeister kept cruising along and at the head of the stretch; he actually kicked clear to a sizable advantage. Finally those grueling fractions caught up with him and so did I’ll Have Another, who swooped by for the win in the closing stages of America’s most prestigious race. 
Nothing but impressed with the performance, his connections brought him back two weeks later for the Preakness. With a more reasonable pace behind him, Bodemeister looked stronger in mid-stretch of racing’s Middle Jewel. But the outcome would be the same, as I’ll Have Another dug deep, in what I have no problem calling the race of the year, to win in the last few strides.
I would love to keep going with the recounting of excellent performances by Bodemeister, but of course, I cannot. First a fever sent him to the sidelines, and then a shoulder injury forced his ultimate retirement. He now stands for $30,000 at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, and is seeing his first group of broodmares this spring.  
All in all, Bodemeister accomplished an awful lot in only four months, and six lifetime races. He never finished worse than a runner-up, including thrilling second place finishes to I’ll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. In both of his wins, Bodemeister crossed the finish line like something very special in winning by more than nine lengths. The maiden win was a dazzler, but it was at Oaklawn Park and in the Arkansas Derby, that Bodemeister transformed himself from a horse with big potential into a true superstar. It was a performance that sent him to Louisville as the Kentucky Derby favorite after only four starts. It was a performance that made him an Arkansas Derby legend. 


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Older Comments about Arkansas Derby Legend: Bodemeister...

Thank you, CauseForConcern.
Brian, Bodemeister was magnificent in opening people's eyes of his potential. Sorry that I was harping on Curlin. I always look forward to your story.
Sysonby, the plug in is "vulnerable" the problem is I am the stupidest person with computers, so I'll just get my wife or something to help me by tomorrow. I'll get back to this convo tomorrow. G'night.
I rank Ark Derby greatness like this: 1. Demons Begone (1987), 2. Bodemeister (2012), 3. TANK'S PROSPECT (1985).
Just watched Curlin's preakness on the video on hrn Curlin page for past performances.
OUTSTANDING article and perspective! Thanks Brian.
Bodemeister was a fantastic racehorse. His Derby was a incredible effort.... Still trying to watch the Curlin's Preakness on youtube... anyone have a different website I could watch it?
Plus, I got the added benefit of watching Bodemeister get off and on the plane at the Hot SPrings, AR airport. I worked there at the time for AAR Corp, and our hanger was 50 yards away from where the Tex Sutton plane parked.
My 7 year old nephew has made it a habit of spending saturdays with his Aunt Lisa to watch the horses run. He keeps that part a secret from his parents. Evry time he comes over, first thing he wants to do is watch Bodiemiester on You Tube. Even the little ones know how awesome Bodie was.
Sorry. (cont) I did write he sparkled from the beginning. This is one I overlooked, as you mentioned. I'll have to wait for youtube to stop crashing so I can watch the 2007 Preakness. Ill get back to y'all soon.
CFC.... I weent out to D.C to eat dinner, so I was off line... I went to youtube to try to watch the 2007 Preakness, but it keeps crashing. I'd also like to acknowledge, I did write
Bodemeister's run in the Ark Derby MOVED me emotionally. It was so impressive. 1:09 for 3/4s in the derby, then losing by 1/2 length MOVED me. Anyone dogging Bodemeister will never have an audience with me.
I stand by what I wrote ... as far as Arkansas Derbies go ... Bodemeister was legendary!
@ goblin: Sorry, the article I read must've been after the Preakness, not the Derby. Thanks for that verification. As for the article, I got the wrong Steve. It seems it's Steve Haskins that wrote the article. Although I couldn't find the exact article, a reference to the Curlin phenomenon was found in the following: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/49494/the-fastest-horse-in-the-gothamby-far
I agree with goblin on this one. Curlin didn't lose the KD because of immaturity, he lost because of terrible racing luck, complemented by excellent luck for Street Sense. Gary Stevens was commentating at the time and was quite contemptuous of Curlin going into the KD. He was a true believer by the end of it. Every horse that got off the rail to give Street Sense a clear path to the win wandered right into Curlin's path, he had a nightmare race and still got third.
I have always thought Curlin's #2 post position in the Kentucky Derby was more an issue than his lack of seasoning/maturity. The connections knew overcoming his draw was going to be difficult, but the 3rd place finish was not bad at all for a colt's fourth start. I did not see Steven Crist's article (mentioned above) but the Preakness was Curlin's fifth race.
Thanks for the compliment, rafirox. One race that was prior to your recognition, that I would like you to go back and look at, would be the Preakness. In that race, he had the lead into the stretch, then was overtaken by Street Sense. Going against what one would normally think, Street Sense opened up about a length lead, and looked like he was on his way, when Curlin battle back, and won the race. To be on the lead; give up the lead in the stretch as if you're faltering; and, then to dig back in, and overtake, showed a lot of people his character. Review that race, and you might ask yourself how you ever overlooked him. It was a stirring victory.
Nice post, as always, CFC. I must say you're on of my favorite posters on this site. Yes, Curlin was strangely consistent. What made it all the more incredible was how YOUNG and IMMATURE he was, yet still throwing good performance after good performance. Ultimately, he was too immature and uncondtioned before the KY Derby, but his 3rd place finish was nothing to overlook, espeially against a crop in which included Hard Spun and Street Sense. In a two year racing career, only one race out of the money! That was against the best of the best on an untried surface in the 2008 BC Classic! He threw in a very nice performance on turf in the Man 'o War Stakes. I heard recently through this site that he was actually headed to the Arc. Imagine that! His 2007 Classic was when even the slightest bit of doubt was erased if he was a monster. This horse showed potential from the beginning (Maiden win, Oaklawn preps, etc)... But, I never jumped on him until he won the Gold Cup. Jess Jackson, too. Think about his keen eye for a good racehorse. This guy was sold for 3.5 million dollars in a private sale right after his Maiden win. This horse brought his A-game on no matter surface, no matter competition, no matter season, no matter track, etc. Definitely one of the modern legends, IMO.
I would have loved seeing Bodemeister race the full year, but he really showed a lot of class in his six starts. I do have to say though that I think Curlin's Arkansas Derby was mor impressive, not just because of the larger margin of victory, but because he wasn't touched with the whip and won without expending much effort.

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