Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 5/4/12

I know I’ve said this before so if you’ve heard it already, I apologize in advance. With all do respects to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Breeders Cup, the Dubai World Cup, the Japan Cup, or any other horse race they run on this planet or any other, this Saturday marks Horse Racing’s best and biggest race in the world today, the 2012 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. This year’s field is perhaps the strongest this correspondent has seen and I’ve seen 31 all told. No less than 10 or 12 have a legitimate chance of winning this race. Bodemeister has been installed as the 4-1 morning line favorite with Union Rags right behind him at 4 ½ to 1 or 9-2.

Not only is the Kentucky Derby the best and biggest horse race in the world from where I sit, it’s also the most difficult to figure out. Well….at least for me it is.

What makes me say that you may ask? I have proof. This years running will be my 32nd Derby that I will be handicapping. Of the 31 previous Derbies I’ve handicapped, I’ve picked five correctly…..you heard me five…five of 31. That amounts to about a 16% success rate. This coming from a guy who’s won several local handicapping contests and last year, at this website, hit at an almost 40% success ratio.

In years past, and starting in 1980, I had Gato Del Sol in 1982 at 21-1. I cashed in big on that one, but I wound up giving it all back and then some because it would be 18 years before I’d pick another winner. (Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000). However, for the last decade, I’ve started to heat up quite a bit (of course, anything would be considered heating up after a n0 for 18 stretch). I had Smarty Jones in 2004, Barbaro in 2006 and Big Brown in 2008.

Why am I telling all of this? I don’t know, just trying to give you a little background and history and perhaps give you a little chuckle at the same time.

A side from that, the Kentucky Derby needs no introduction.

Churchill DownsMay 5, 2012

 Race 11 – 6:24 PM  

Kentucky Derby (Grade I)

Purse $2,000,000.

One and One Quarter Miles.










1 1 Daddy Long Legs 3/C LA C O’Donoghue 126 A P O’Brien


2 2 Optimizer 3/C LA J K Court 126 D W Lukas


3 3 Take Charge Indy 3/C L C H Borel 126 P B Byrne


4 4 Union Rags 3/C LA J R Leparoux 126 M R Matz


5 5 Dullahan 3/C LA K J Desormeaux 126 D L Romans


6 6 Bodemeister 3/C LA M E Smith 126 B Baffert


7 7 Rousing Sermon 3/C LA J Lezcano 126 J Hollendorfer


8 8 Creative Cause 3/C L J Rosario 126 M Harrington


9 9 Trinniberg 3/C L W Martinez 126 B Parboo


10 10 Daddy Nose Best 3/C LA G K Gomez 126 S M Asmussen


11 11 Alpha 3/C LA R Maragh 126 K P McLaughlin


12 12 Prospective 3/C L L Contreras 126 M E Casse


13 13 Went the Day Well 3/C LA J R Velazquez 126 H G Motion


14 14 Hansen 3/C LA R A Dominguez 126 M J Maker


15 15 Gemologist 3/C LA J Castellano 126 T A Pletcher


16 16 El Padrino 3/C LA R Bejarano 126 T A Pletcher


17 17 Done Talking 3/C LA S Russell 126 H A Smith


18 18 Sabercat 3/C LA C S Nakatani 126 S M Asmussen


19 19 I’ll Have Another 3/C LA M Gutierrez 126 D F O’Neill


20 20 Liaison 3/C LA M Garcia 126 B Baffert


21 21 My Adonis 3/C LA E Trujillo 126 K J Breen


Analysis: (By Post Position Order)


PP#1: Daddy Long Legs- won the UAE Derby at Meydan Racetrack in Dubai “comfortably” in his last race (March 31). That race is at 1 3/16’s miles, so you know the 1 ¼ miles distance in this race won’t be a problem. That being said, there are a couple of things I’m not crazy about. 1) I’m not a big fan of asking a horse to literally travel half way around the world and back, then win the Kentucky Derby. I mean, to me, it’s just asking a lot, traveling thru some 26 time zones, training on different tracks and at all different times of day or night etc. 2) The one start he made in this country, and over this very racetrack, was abysmal as he finished 12th of 13 in the 2011 Breeders Cup Juvenile. I pass…

PP#2- Optimizer- Other than his explosive finish (came with a 6 wide run at the quarter pole) to just miss catching Secret Circle in the Rebel Stakes, this colt has done absolutely nothing. In fact, the race before and after the Rebel were both 9th place finishes and he was soundly beaten in both.

Before he got in (there was some graded stakes earning issues) Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said “I hope he gets in the race because he is a true mile and a quarter horse”. That’s nice Mr. Lukas, I’m sure he is but he’ll need several things in his favor in order to win. Like say, a wickedly fast early pace (which is possible) and he needs to be “in the mood” to run well. Unfortunately, I don’t like playing or suggesting to others to play “moody” horses, for lack of a better term.

PP#3- Take Charge Indy- impeccably bred horse (A.P Indy- Take Charge Lady by Dehere) is one of quite a few horses in this race who might be coming into it the right way or peaking at the right time. This stretch runner surprised everyone by taking the lead right from the gate in the Florida Derby, never looked back and won. He’s been beaten by several horses in this race in the past, but again, he might be peaking right now so he is a 50-50 proposition at best. I like others better but if he runs big, I will not be surprised.

PP#4- Union Rags- if you’ve been following me you know I think this horse is something special. I did lose a little confidence in him after his Florida Derby defeat but from what I’ve been hearing and seeing, perhaps I should let that go and jump back on the bandwagon. Big, imposing horse to look at, has a big long stride and possesses a devastating late run.

It appears they “turned the screws” on him to have him peaking right now. He’s recorded two works of late (5F- :59.4 and 4F- :47.4) and in the 5F work exercise rider and assistant trainer Peter Brette said “he was pulling the reins out of my hands”…that’s exactly what I was looking to hear about him. Like so many others in here, he must ….and I mean must ….stay out of the dreaded Kentucky Derby traffic issues. If he does, I promise you he’ll be coming hard down the lane.

PP#5- Dullahan- if this were a beauty contest, this horse (or Bodemeister) probably wins. I still can’t get over how impressive he looked in the paddock just minutes before exploding in the stretch to win the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland three weeks ago.

Speaking of the Bluegrass, after a bad start, this horse was in tenth position on the turn for home and was in and among horses (traffic) too. But once he found running room, he leveled out beautifully and ran down Hansen to win by almost two lengths.

All that being said he is still just 2 for 8 life time and has yet to win on the conventional dirt surface but I wouldn’t let that fact bother you too much.

Lastly and just a footnote here, he is a half brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. They are both out of the mare Mining My Own and no female has ever foaled two Kentucky Derby winners.

PP#6- Bodemeister- this $260,000 Keeneland Yearling sales purchase by Empire Maker could be a monster in the making. He’s done some freakish things in just four lifetime starts including running the number one (at the time) ranked three year old on the west coast, Creative Cause, to three quarters of a length in just his third career start. He followed that up with an annihilation of the Arkansas Derby field where he set a fast pace yet still left his 10 other rivals in his wake as he drew away down the lane to win by almost 10.

Speed figures, like I talked about the other day, have been off the charts and, more importantly, still climbing.

Big, big chance to win this race but he must not….under any circumstances….get caught up in the wickedly fast early pace that the Kentucky Derby produces every year. If he does, it could be a long day for him, but if he doesn’t…..readers…he could be long gone. Regardless of any pace scenario, he merits big time respect.

Lastly, he’ll have to overcome the “Apollo” jinx. If you are unfamiliar with that, no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without ever starting as a two year old. The last horse to win the Derby without racing in his two year old campaign was a horse named “Apollo” waaaaay back in 1882. That’s a 119 year streak….I will leave you with this though, if any horse I’ve seen has the ability to snap that streak? It’s this horse.

PP#7- Rousing Sermon- finally showed a little life (at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana) in his last race after two bad efforts (at Santa Anita). He closed from 11th to finish 3rd in the Louisiana Derby back on April 1st but remember that was against Hero of Order who was 109-1 that day. All in all, I just don’t think he’s good enough and I’ll be passing on him at the betting windows come Saturday evening.

PP#8- Creative Cause- another well bred colt (by super sireGiant’s Causeway out of Dream of Summer) and was the leading west coast three year old for much of the spring. He doesn’t have that big late explosive kick at the end like several other do in here, but he still must be respected. He is more of a “grinder” than anything else and that type of running style is always dangerous.

He’s been working well in the mornings and if he can secure a good position early (4th, 5th or 6th??) he could be right there at the end.

Never off the board in now eight lifetime starts so you know he’ll be trying his best, which is always a great trait to have in a racehorse.

PP#9- Trinninberg- this speedster should be on the early lead or, at the very least, challenging for it. He’s won his last two impressively and in fast times as well. (The 7 furlong Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 6 lengths in an eye popping 1:21.3 and the 7 furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct by 3 lengths in 1:23.2 both in wire to wire fashion).

The problem is he’s got to go three furlongs further than he’s ever been before. I find it bizarre that his connection choose the Kentucky Derby to see if he can indeed stretch his speed out. I mean, couldn’t they do that at an earlier date? Or has “Derby Fever” totally taken them over?

PP#10- Daddy Nose Best- stretch runner has shown ability earlier in his career but has really come into his own in his last two races. They were both wins, while one was in California and the other in New Mexico and you can add him to the list of horses that might be peaking at the right time. His last three speed figures are 75, 93 and 100…a definite upward trend. I do question the competition in those two races but still, he seems to be heading in the right direction.

This $35,000 Keeneland September yearling, who is by red hot sire Scat Daddy and is trained by one of the best in the business Steve Asmussen, has already banked over $633,000 and if he gets the right trip, he could make his presence felt late in this race. One of many longshot possibilities in this race.

PP#11-Alpha- from the powerhouse Godolphin Stable and by top sire Bernardini, he won the Count Fleet Stakes and the Withers in New York this winter against softer foes. He then received over eight weeks off, but the rest might have done him well as he gave the undefeated Gemologist all he can handle in his next start, the Wood Memorial, only to lose to him by a neck.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Monday that he was “all set” and he certainly appears to be as he shows three good races this year and a bullet 5F in :59.2 last week. He certainly appears to be coming into this race in top form. The question is, is he good enough to win?

PP#12-Prosective- disappointed in his last, the Bluegrass Stakes, as he checked 6th beaten 6 ½ lengths behind Dullahan. Races prior to that one were all good ones including that Tampa Bay Derby win where he took the lead at the top of the stretch, got passed in mid-stretch, but dug in, fought back and retook the lead and held it to the wire.

He shows 6 of 8 career starts either first or second but I believe he is in a bit over his head in this race.

PP#13- Went the Day Well- trainer Graham Motion is trying to follow in his own footsteps from last year as this horse’s career kind of mirrors last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom broke his maiden; finished second in an allowance race then won the Spiral Stakes at Keeneland before upsetting the 2010 Derby with a strong late rally. Well, this horse broke his maiden, then went straight to the Spiral Stakes and won it with a strong late rally.

He ran his best race to date in the Spiral, but there are two ways to look at it. 1) He’s peaking now (with a career high 92 speed figure in the Spiral) or 2) He just loves the synthetics (the Spiral was his first try on that surface) and won’t perform as well on the conventional dirt track. (His other two starts this year on dirt were a closing fourth in a maiden race and then a maiden race win but he only scored an 80 and 76, respectively, in those two races.)

I say he’s peaking out and will handle the dirt just fine. I expect a good performance from him.

PP#14- Hansen- ahhhh yes….Hansen, the speedy two year colt champion from last year looked like he finally figured out how to rate off the early pace (which would be his best running style) when he won the Gotham by three lengths.

So what happens after that? He goes to Keeneland for the Bluegrass, breaks about as good as a horse can break from the gate and goes straight to the lead. Ok, fine…I was ok with that. But then he rips off a :46.3 half mile with very little pressure from other horses in the race on him. When he turned for home, he still looked good but he visibly began to tire with about a 1/16th of a mile left.

Dullahan caught him but he did gamely hold second. He could have easily spit out the bit completely but he didn’t.

How he performs on Saturday evening will depend on two things. 1) Depends which Hansen shows up. If the ratable one who won the Gotham shows up, he’ll definitely be a threat to win the whole thing. If the one in the Bluegrass shows up, not so much. 2) His ability to handle 10 furlongs and I have to tell you….I’m not completely convinced he can.

PP#15- Gemologist- you folks better sit up and pay attention to this undefeated (5 for 5) son of Tiznow. He’s done everything asked of him so far including winning sprint races as well as distance races, he’s won while setting the entire pace and he’s won while coming from behind too.

He’s been working right along at Palm Meadows in Florida and in his 5 races his speed figures are 75, 81, 85, 95 and 98….again, an upward tend. With just 5 career races to his credit, we probably still haven’t see the best this 2012 Wood Memorial winner has to offer….which, in turn, is a scary thought….

PP#16- El Padrino- boy, how the mighty have fallen. For most of the spring I had this guy ranked in the top 5 on my weekly edition of the “Countdown to the Triple Crown”

He loses one race and…. Poof…. I, along with a lot of other people, toss him out. That, readers, might prove to be a mistake as he could easily bounce back

I mean, he won the Risen Star in a game effort and was beaten just three lengths in the Florida Derby in his last two races and I ask you, is that anything to be disgraced about? Certainly not…another who I won’t be the least bit surprised if he runs well.

 PP#17- Done Talking- late runner is only here because he came form out of nowhere to win a very slowly run Illinois Derby (9 furlongs in 1:53.4) at 13-1. Albeit, he does have the right running style to win this race, I just don’t think he is fast enough to. 


PP#18- Sabercat- another stretch runner that showed some life in his last…too bad it was in the Arkansas Derby and against Bodemeister. Although he was beaten almost 10 lengths, he did come from ninth position early to get up for third.

That Delta Jackpot win still jumps out on paper as it was a very impressive win, but it was 6 months ago and we can’t let it play such a major role in how we look at this horse….next.

PP#19- I’ll Have Another- chestnut colt by Flower Alley was a 43-1 shot winner of the Robert B Lewis back in February, get two months off, burns up the racetrack in the meantime and then bounces back to win the Santa Anita Derby while outgunning the west coasts #1 Derby prospect (Creative Cause) in the process….unbelievable.

He’s posted two more very strong work outs between the SA Derby and now so I expect another big race from him. The only thing that’s holding me back from really  liking him is the dreaded #19 post position, which could prove to be a killer for him.

PP#20- Liaison- showed ability last year for trainer Bob Baffert, but has done nothing tight so far this year expect for a few strong (recent) workouts.

“He seems to be coming around” Baffert said after his last work (1:00.4 at Churchill Downs last Monday).

I can’t rely on a horse that “seems to be coming around” …that combined with post position #20 kills it for me.

Also Eligible:

My Adonis- even if he draws in, he’s been beaten by several of these horse already and I dont expect much from him. He’s a good horse, just not an upper echelon three year old from what I see. I mean, he hasn’t won since October…thats 7 months.


1) Union Rags- I’ve been on him since August of last year and it’s kind of hard to jump ship now. I believe he is peaking at the right time by the way his exercise ride speaks about him and I stay with him as the best three year old colt until proven otherwise.

2) Bodemeister- scared to death of him and if he wins this race by 10 lengths I will not be surprised. But he does have a lot to overcome, like say the Apollo jinx, I expect him to be on the lead and I doubt he will be alone and the lack of experience (just 4 lifetime starts).

Then again, who knows after 4 races?….he could pull a Bold Forbes (who won this race in 1976 by going to the front and never looking back.)

3) Gemologist- being unbeaten, versatile and fast is a deadly combination.


4) I’ll Have Another- was very impressive getting here, still burning up the racetrack in the mornings signal he is holding his SA Derby win form.

5) Dullahan- looks sensational and peaking out. As long as he handles the normal dirt surface, he should run well.

Honorable Mentions:

Hansen – if he goes out there winging it on the early lead, he’s a sitting duck. If he rates off the pace, he should better the rating I give him here. Creative Cause is going to need a lot of things to go his way to win. I’m not saying they won’t happen but he just needs more than I’m willing to give him (a fast pace, no traffic issues and he was beaten fair and square by I’ll Have Another in the SA Derby so he’ll need to find a way to beat him). Alpha, I can’t believe I have him this far down, this is a quality horse…just goes to show you the depth in this year’s division. Went the Day Well, can he duplicate what Animal Kingdom did last year? I don’t know, but he sure looked good winning his last.



This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


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