Last Call for Derby 138: The Top 20 Plus Five

Last Call for Derby 138: The Top 20 Plus Five


Last Call for Derby 138: The Top 20 Plus Five


by Gary Roedemeier

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 12:49 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 7:32 PM

(WHAS11) -- It is one of the oldest handicapping angles for the Kentucky Derby.

A horse can't win the Derby unless he races as a 2-year-old. That's been the case for more than a hundred years, but Bodemeister is about to give that tradition a stern test.

Bodemeister didn't debut for Bob Baffert until a second place finish in a five and a half furlong race in January.  Three races later, the son of Empire Maker, won the Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths and crashed the party at Churchill Downs.

At the top of the Oaklawn stretch Bode ran away from his very accomplished stablemate Secret Circle and won for fun. The time for the mile and an eighth was 1:48:71 and at the end Bodemeister was cruising.

Meanwhile at Keeneland another Derby hopeful was even faster in winning the Bluegrass Stakes. But the big pre-race story was another effort by owner Kendall Hansen to race his white horse with a blue tail.

It lead to an argument with trainer Mike Maker, who removed the blue dye because he feared the horse would be scratched.

The horse was not scratched, instead he was passed in the stretch by Dullahan, a huge chestnut colt, who had shown his love for the Keeneland track by winning there as a two year old.

The Bluegrass time was 1:47:94, but the question remains can Dullahan transfer his speed on Polytrack and grass to the dirt at Churchill Downs? 

But, he does have a fourth place at Churchill in the Breeders' Cup juvenile and those who watched Dullahan work before the Bluegrass say he is looking like a monster.

You can add the clever jockey Kent Desormeaux to the Derby equation for Dullahan and also consider that he is a half brother to Derby winner Mine That Bird. Trainer Dale Romans says about the Derby distance, " the further the better."

That might also be the case for Bodemeister, whose sire won the Belmont Stakes. And Bode also retains jockey Mike Smith, who rides Churchill, almost as well as Calvin Borel.

And in terms of making the starting gate on May 5th, the past weekend was a time for bubble horses and their owners to take heart. Only Bodemeister jumped into the Top Twenty.  All of the other big money winners were already qualified for Derby 138.

Now, the questions are, who will run and who will take a pass?

Here's the Top Twenty listed by graded earnings and some thoughts on each. Then I'll list the bubble horses, who need some dropouts to make the field.

1. Hansen: $1,550,000
He's still fast but he can't get caught in a Derby speed duel. Hansen has a high cruising speed so maybe he can rate behind a speedball.  Hopefully, the blue tail controversy is behind him.

2. Daddy Long Legs: $1,294,030
He won the UAE Derby and the connections say he's headed for the Derby but the last time he ran at Churchill he was 12th. And there's the business of the long commute.

3. Union Rags: $1,170,000
He's good enough to be the favorite in a future's book.  He was also third in the Florida Derby after a bad trip. But don't count him out,  Rags might be ready to peak again with the help of Michael Matz.

4. Dullahan: $855,000
His appearance on the track at Keeneland was stunning. He has that big long stride that wins the Derby. Bettors will love him. And he will love the last quarter of a mile under the Twin Spires.

5. Creative Cause: $836,000
Already has a third place at Churchill in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and he should be in the mix on May 5th.

6. Wrote: $756,630
He has a win at Churchill but on the grass. But will Aiden O'Brien ship two horses to Louisville in May?  That big bankroll is a Breeders' Cup purse.

7. Gemologist: $703,855
This Tiznow colt is undefeated and will try to keep his win streak alive in the Kentucky Derby. Not impossible. Has two wins at Churchill, and his Wood Memorial win was very determined.

8. Sabercat: $701,429
Finally showed some improvement in Arkansas. It was only his second race after hitting the jackpot at Delta Downs. But Sabercat would need a huge improvement to hit the board.

9. Take Charge Indy: $698,400
The Florida Derby win was one of the most impressive Derby preps and this guy ran away from Union Rags and El Padrino. This may be the best bred horse in the field and no one would be surprised if he winds up with roses.

10. Secret Circle: $670.000
He was still running in the Arkansas Derby although almost ten lengths behind his stablemate, Bodemeister. May have finally hit the distance wall.

11. Bodemeister: $660,000
Needed a win at Oaklawn to get in the Derby and got it. If he gets any better, the rest are running for second place.

12. I'll Have Another: $601,000
The best of the California contingent that was flattered by Bodemeister's romp in the Arkansas Derby. I'll Have Another beat Creative Cause, who beat Bode.

13. Daddy Nose Best: $545,558
The Sunland Derby winner loses jockey Mike Smith because Mike rode Bodemeister. Daddy may Nose, but he's not the best.

14. Liaison: $393,000
Speaking of not being the best, Liaison hasn't even been close to "good" this spring. He won most of his money as a two year old, and his three year old races show he doesn't belong in the Derby. But he's shipping to Louisville anyway.

15. Alpha: $380,000 
His second to Gemologist in the Wood Memorial was not a bad race, considering he had not raced in two months. Godolphin's best chance to hit the board in years.

16. Prospective: $367,327
Won the Tampa Bay Derby but was not a factor in the Bluegrass Stakes. He has enough money but I was surprised to hear trainer Mark Casse say he's on the fence about entering the Kentucky Derby.

17. Trinniberg: $324,500
He made his graded stakes money at sprint distances and is more likely for the Derby Trial. Trainer Bisnath Parboo says he doesn't want to ruin a good horse by running him too far. Smart trainer.
18. Done Talking: $311,000
He won the Illinois Derby but the times were much slower than other Derby preps. He's in the race, but I don't see how he competes with horses coming out of Florida, New York and California.

19. Drill: $300,000
Baffert will bring Bodemeister, Secret Circle and Liaison to Louisville but Drill will make his money at sprint distances. This is one spot for a bubble horse.

20. Went The Day Well: $282,000
Barry Irwin says that this is Team Valor's Derby horse and it looks like he has enough money to make the field. He won't be overlooked because of the Animal Kingdom connection, but he'd be another big surprise if he won.

21. Rousing Sermon: $270,000
The first horse on the bubble and he seems likely to make it, after a third in the Louisiana Derby. But he finished third to a 109 to 1 shot, who then finished last in the Bluegrass Stakes.

22. Mark Valeski: $260,000
He was second in the Louisiana Derby and trainer Larry Jones is leaving it up to the racing gods. He says, if we don't make it, it means we don't belong.  That about sums it up.

23. El Padrino: $250,000
Speaking of racing deities, they would be unkind to El Padrino if he doesn't make the field. He would probably be the best horse to miss the Derby, if he doesn't make the cut.

24. Reveron:  $220,000
He was second in the Florida Derby, showing some real signs of life, so they'll take a shot in the Lexington Coolmore to make some more money and make the Derby. If he makes it, he has a chance to at least hit the board.

25. Isn't He Clever: $191,333
This is probably where Derby hopes start to die. He was 8th in the Arkansas Derby and he needs some defections or injuries to make the field. Even at that, he's not clever enough to run with the top contenders.

The Lexington is almost always the last call for Derby contenders to pad their bankrolls for Louisville, but this year, the winner's paycheck is only $120,000 dollars and that's not enough. It might put a bubble horse like Reveron over the top but there will not be a Charismatic, who won the Lexington and then the Derby and Preakness.

The next three weeks will be about who shows up at Churchill Downs, who shows up healthy and how they train over the historic oval. 

Be sure to join me Wednesday morning on Great Day Live on WHAS11 as we continue our handicapping of Derby 138.

Happy Derby everyone!