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Sunday, May 06, 2012


Derby 138: Impertinent Post Mortums


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 6, 2012—So, how might things have gone if, say, Bodemeister had four weeks between races instead of three? Might he have lasted? Did he bounce, or simply get tired after excruciating fractions? Probably the latter, but who really knows.

What is certain is that this is one free running top class animal that didn’t deserve his fate. Did Bob Baffert actually suggest to Mike Smith, that if the opportunity presented itself, to bottom out the field? Baffert said Sunday that he’ll wait a week before deciding on a Preakness run.

The $48,046.40 Question: What if the first four finishers did not come from the Raise A Native sire line? Even If I’ll Have Another is a grandson of the prolific Distorted Humor, did you think the colt’s father, Flower Alley, a $7,500 stallion, would have this kind of recent Grade 1 fortune? First Lilacs And Lace, and now this guy.

Let It Rain: What if biblical rains did not descend on Louisville late Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning? Did all the sealing and floating pack the surface down to the degree that speed kept right on going, from the Kentucky Oaks right through the 13th and final on Saturday night?

And does the Equibase chart expect anyone who witnessed the Oaks to believe that the official surface designation should be "fast?" Wouldn’t a designation of “wet-fast” been closer to reality, and less misleading?

What is Churchill Downs going to do without track superintendent Butch Lehr? Wasn’t it amazing how the track harrowed up fast for Saturday’s third race? Churchill in the spring is so fast-drying, in fact, that water trucks were on the track prior to the Turf Classic--the race before the Derby--applying some H2O despite an anticipated elongated delay. Churchill might be the only surface that doesn’t cause this handicapper to freak out when the track comes up “sloppy.”

Proud As Peacocks: Undercard coverage by the new NBCSports Network was first rate and a stark improvement over similar coverage of recent years. You might not always agree with analyst Jerry Bailey, but he never fails to impart useful information to neophytes and veteran fans alike.

Host Laffit Pincay III—we don’t have to refer to him as LP3, now do we?—was a revelation; easy listening, good banter, doesn’t get in the way of a story, and asks insightful questions. Reporting turns by Gary Stevens, Randy Moss, Jay Privman and Donna Brothers hit the right notes. On the network side, viewers were treated to a side of Bob Baffert never before seen. Terrific feature.

No More Rag-Tag Trips: Union Rags will never get a chance to reach his full potential this year until he gets a different rider. Julien Leparoux is top class, but his style doesn't suit the colt. With Hall of Fame Johnny V. likely committed to Preakness probable Went The Day Well--who galloped out like a wild horse--and with Hansen unlikely to try the Belmont, Ramon Dominguez is probably available at this point in time.

Michael Matz’s choice of the Belmont over the Preakness would more likely be about the five weeks than the marathon trip. As for getting the distance, Union Rags is going to need to be more Nijinsky II and less Dixie Union. Meanwhile, a Preakness run has not been ruled out.

Headless Horse Sees All Tracks Alike: Dullahan may be 0-4 on dirt but certainly doesn’t give the impression that anything but turf or synthetics is beyond him. After breaking inward at the start and knocking Union Rags around, he too was forced to steady while in close quarters at the first turn; nothing serious but certainly making for a few uncomfortable moments.

The colt finally settled nicely on the backside but was forced to angle out about 7 wide into the stretch. It took him awhile to find his best stride but when he did, he set sail for the wire only to fall short by 1¾ lengths. Did he have 1¾ lengths worth of trouble? Quite possibly. The connections are sitting on the Preakness fence.

No Comment, No Time, No Obligation: Eclipse Award winning turf writer Claire Novak tweeted yesterday that when a reporter asked Eclipse winning trainer Steve Asmussen if he had a minute to talk about the finish of Derby horses Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat, 10th and 15th, respectively. The answer was “no.” When asked what would be more convenient later on, the answer was “next year.”

With all the interest in the Derby, with the positive press his horses got Derby week, and with the sport under siege, it would have been nice had Asmussen, who does not avoid the spotlight when things are going well, found a few minutes to tell fans what he thought might have happened to his entrants. And that’s a bad job on his part.

Written by John Pricci

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