Friday, April 20, 2012

Derby Hopeful: Bodemeister

For several years, racing fans have adored Bode Baffert, son of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. An adorable face amongst racing greats, it came as no surprise that a talented colt came along with Bode as his namesake. Little did anyone know, that colt, who was registered under the name Bodemeister, would become Baffert’s top Derby prospect just weeks after Bob Baffert suffered a humbling heart attack.

In his racing debut, Bodemeister finished second behind the future graded stakes-placed American Act in a five-and-one-half-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita. Settling behind American Act, he could not quite catch the other colt but chased him willingly.

He more than redeemed himself next out, leading from start to finish in a one-mile maiden special weight over the same track to triumph by an outstanding 9 ¼ lengths. The final time for the eight-furlong race was an impressive 1:34.45, with the final furlong being run in 11.35 seconds despite the colt being held in hand by Rafael Bejarano. With that win, he immediately captured my attention.

Following his remarkable maiden victory, Bodemeister made his graded stakes debut in the San Felipe Stakes (GII), contested at the same Arcadia, California track. He found a position with American Act on the lead before taking command at the top of the stretch. The highly-touted grade one winner Creative Cause was gaining ground on the outside, however, and as Bodemeister drifted out, the gray colt defeated Bob Baffert’s talented steed by ¾ of a length.

Bodemeister had the option to remain in Southern California to take on the likes of Creative Cause again, as well as the brilliant I’ll Have Another, in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), but Baffert chose to ship him to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Arkansas Derby (GI) instead. It proved as the right choice. With Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith – fresh off his five thousandth victory – aboard for the first time, Bodemeister set a solid pace while leading the winners of three graded stakes races and seven ungraded stakes. Each horse that galloped behind him had at least placed in one stakes race or graded stakes.

In Zayat Stables’ vibrant silks, Bodemeister drew clear from the others in the stretch under Mike Smith, extending his easy lead to a breathtaking 9 ½ lengths by the time he crossed the wire. Completing the final furlong of the mile and one-eighth race in an impressive 11.97 seconds considering he was several lengths clear of the others, Bodemeister posted an official time of 1:48.71, a time faster than past Arkansas Derby victors that went on to become Triple Crown superstars, including the Derby winners Smarty Jones and Sunny’s Halo, the Preakness Stakes (GI) winners Curlin, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Pine Bluff, and Elocutionist, and the Belmont Stakes (GI) winners Afleet Alex, Victory Gallop, and Temperence Hill.

Some find it worrisome that Bodemeister has not won from off the pace, but he has run well with that running style. After all, he finished a good second in his debut after settling in second. Jockey Mike Smith has also expressed that he does not believe rating will be a problem for the colt.

Bodemeister’s pedigree certainly implies that Triple Crown distances will not be an issue. His sire is Empire Maker, who spoiled Funny Cide’s bid for the Triple Crown in 2003 by taking the twelve-furlong Belmont Stakes. Empire Maker is proven as a sire of routers, having sired the Personal Ensign Stakes (GI, 10F)-winning Icon Project, the Santa Anita Derby (GI, 9F)-winning and Kentucky Derby (GI, 10F) runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, and the Alabama Stakes (GI, 10F)- and Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI, 9F)-winning Royal Delta. The stallion, who is inbred 4 X 3 to the Man O’ War sire line descendant, In Reality, also exhibits two crosses of Aspidistra, Buckpasser, Native Dancer, and Rough’n Tumble in the first five generations of his pedigree. His own dam, Toussad, is a Reine De Course mare who was voted Broodmare of the Year in 2002 and also produced the group one-winning distance horses Chester House and Chiselling, the graded stakes-winning Decarchy, and the grade one-winning sprinter Honest Lady.

Bodemeister is out of the graded stakes-winning mare Untouched Talent, who earned over $240,000 in her career. Her mating with Empire Maker forms two crosses of the influential sire Northern Dancer in Bodemeister’s pedigree, two crosses of the great Secretariat, and of course the two crosses of In Reality present in Empire Maker’s bloodlines in Bodemeister’s first five generations. Inbreeding to Northern Dancer has been extraordinarily successful, resulting in such horses as the Derby winners Mine That Bird and Big Brown, Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre, the brilliant grade one-winning Eskendereya, and the grade one-winning router Giant Oak. Inbreeding to Secretariat has yielded such horses as the grade one winners Bluegrass Cat, D’Wildcat, Sky Mesa, and Speightstown.

Untouched Talent’s bloodlines bring to the table a large amount of powerhouse sires. She is a daughter of the great sire Storm Cat, who is also an incredibly successful broodmare sire, being the damsire of brilliant horses such as the champions Folklore and Speightstown, as well as several grade one winners, including Dialed In, Sky Mesa, and Sidney’s Candy. She is also a granddaughter of the great sire A.P. Indy, who is the sire of her multiple graded stakes-winning dam Parade Queen. In just her first five generations, Untouched Talent traces back to a plethora of influential sires, including Northern Dancer, Roberto, Bold Ruler, Princequillo, Nijinsky, and Buckpasser. Due to the fact that she is a direct descendant of the foundation mare of family 1-n – the stakes-winning Reine De Course mare Chelandry – so is Bodemeister, which makes him a descendant of female family one. This is the most prolific of all female families and has yielded such great horses as Azeri, Buckpasser, Forty Niner, Genuine Risk, Rachel Alexandra, and Smarty Jones.

Bodemeister is quickly becoming a buzz horse, hailing from a strong stamina-based family and coming off the most dazzling victory on the Kentucky Derby trail. He offers everything you could want in a Derby prospect between his terrific pedigree, racing brilliance, and touching human interest story. Bob Baffert already has three Derby victories to his credit, but one can imagine that a win in the world’s most prestigious race just over a month after his heart attack in Dubai with a colt named after his son would be the most emotional of all. Bodemeister will not only have plenty of bettors backing him, but a surplus of fans will be pulling for him to win as well – and for good reason.

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