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John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012


Forget the Derby, Let’s Keep this Chase Going!


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 14, 2012—In the end, Hansen failed to stay…and Bodemeister failed to stop. In fact, after drawing away at the end of the Arkansas Derby, will Bodemeister be a sentimental and betting favorite in Kentucky Derby 138?

I’m not dismissing that notion out of hand.

At Keeneland, juvenile champion Hansen, a.k.a. White Cloud, did everything right but win. I know it’s obvious that Keeneland’s Polytrack has been playing very fast, but fair, at the young meet.

But even at that, 9 furlongs in 1:47.94, is very strong. So is 1:48.71, which is how long it took Bodemeister to run from post 11 to the Oaklawn Park finish line.

It’s not like this extremely talented sophomore class saved its best for the last two major preps, but that notion sure makes the conversation.

Dullahan was beastlike through the final furlong. When Hansen tripped the three-quarter mile mark in 1:11.32, Dale Romans colt was ninth, six lengths behind the leader.

With Kent Desormeaux channeling his inner Calvin Borel, he rallied along the inside to headstretch where Desormeaux tipped his runner wide for a clear run.

As Dullahan was gaining monster momentum with each stride, Hansen opened his lead out to 2-1/2 lengths in midstretch and appeared home free—nearly home free.

On the payoff side of the sixteenth pole, Hansen began to shorten stride, and now let the questions begin. Was he absolutely fully primed, with the big dance only three weeks away? Was it the pace, which was faster than a :12-clip at every pole until he needed :24.14 to go from the three-quarters to the mile.

Or did he just fail to stay 9 furlongs? If I were asked to bet my life on one of those possibilities, I’d probably had to choose the latter.

But even if he had not shortened stride, who’s to say Dullahan wasn’t going to get him anyway? I mean he was fly-y-y-y-ing!

The chatter at Gulfstream Park this winter is that recent perennial leading breeder Frank Stronach was interested in buying into the colt. Don’t know anything beyond that, except to say Mr. Stronach has a keen eye for equine athletes.

Romans deserves all manner of credit for getting Dullahan to this point at this time. In the ultra-key Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Dullahan didn’t get any the best of it yet only six lengths separated him from the champion. Consider those six lengths made up.

A half hour later, Bodemeister, remarkably, made Dullahan’s effort seem like ancient history. And consider that Dullahan was five lengths behind at the eighth pole, the final three furlongs taking a mere :36.62 to complete. You do the math.

The Bob Baffert runner, after gathering himself following the start, raced to the lead with authority and under control; he was no runoff.

And he didn’t need no stinking blinkers, either. He took the track and controlled fractions of :23.02, :46.55., 1:11.36, and a mile in 1:36.74. But here’s where his effort gets really interesting.
Bodemeister needed :37.35 to complete his final three furlongs, as opposed to the final three-eighths of the Blue Grass of :36.62.

But when Bodemeister opened his lead out to three lengths during a fourth quarter of :25.38, it was actually a breather! Otherwise, how would you explain a final furlong in 11.97. Eleven Ninety-Seven!

What manner of horse is this that he finds more, rapidly, and turns a three length advantage into 9-1/2 at the finish line?

Last week we wrote that this Derby was coming up huge. At the time, we had no idea just how huge it will be. Wow!

Bets N' Pieces: Baffert’s Secret Circle was a game second in the Arkansas Derby after taking earlier legs in the series beneath Rafael Bejarano, his partner yesterday. But Bejarano gets Bode back in three weeks, Mike Smith accepting the mount on Daddy Knows Best on Friday…

Dr. Hansen said on the NTRA conference call that Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Wood Memorial runnerup Alpha, knows that Hansen is on top of Ramon Dominguez’s list, who rides both horses. But Dominguez said after the Wood and before the Blue Grass that he would wait to see what happens this weekend. Now what..?

Meanwhile, Dale Romans ran 1-4 in the Blue Grass (Cozzetti), Baffert 1-2 in the Arkansas Derby, and Mike Maker 2-3 in the Blue Grass (Gung Ho). Lost in that shuffle was the Steve Asmussen show. The meet's leading trainer saddled the winners of five races on the Oaklawn Park undercard. He tacked-up longshot Sabercat to a third-place Akrnasas Derby finish.

Written by John Pricci

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