2012 Kentucky Derby Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/3/2012
The post positions have been drawn, the horses are at the track, and now all we can do is wait. The Kentucky Derby is the greatest two minutes in sports, and the best live sporting event there is. As I anxiously await this year’s edition — with a particularly solid class — here are eight 2012 Kentucky Derby predictions I feel pretty good about:
Trinniberg will lead after half a mile
The speed is going to be blistering early on. There are four strong speed horses — Trinniberg, Take Charge Indy, Hansen, and Bodemeister — and several more who would take the lead if they could get it. Trinniberg is a sprinter in both experience and breeding so he can’t be patient. His only chance is to try to run away with the race early and have enough of a lead to hang on. He’ll be flying, and the other three speed horses won’t be likely to let him get too far away from them. Trinniberg will be ahead in a very fast half. This should be the last call he’ll lead, though — I have no faith that he can hold on.
Bodemeister will lead after one mile
Bodemeister and Hansen would both rather be on the lead. Luckily, though, jockeys Mike Smith and Ramon Dominguez, respectively, are both extremely good at sensing pace and relaxing a horse. I expect that Smith especially will be able to ride the pace and pounce as soon as Trinniberg falters. Whether he can hold it or not is another issue, but he’ll have the lead when they reach the stretch.
Calvin Borel won’t add No. 4
I really like Take Charge Indy, and in a weaker field — like last year — I would be all over him. I just don’t quite think he can measure up to the other speed horses, and I’m not sure the pace scenario sets up well for him. I also question whether Borel is the right choice to relax enough and pick his spots at the front of a crowded Kentucky Derby field like this — he’s more suited to be further off the pace.
No repeat for Motion
Last year’s win with Animal Kingdom was a heck of a training job for Graham Motion, and a well-deserved win to boot. There will be a temptation to back Went the Day Well because of the similarities to Animal Kingdom — same connections, same final prep race won. I just don’t buy it, though. Animal Kingdom was a much better horse than this one, and he was in a much weaker race.
Not yet for horses with Dubai connections
Sooner or later a horse owned by Coolmore or Godolphin is going to win the Derby. After all, they are the two richest and biggest owners there are. This won’t be the year, though. Coolmore, the Irish-based stable, has Daddy Long Legs here. Last time out he won the UAE Derby in Dubai. Godolphin has Alpha, who was a very close second to unbeaten Gemologist in the Wood Memorial. I have respect for both horses, but not enough to think they will be a factor here.
Dullahan will get a lane, but he won’t have enough
The fast early pace should set up for a closer to pick up the pieces, and Dullahan is by far the best deep-closer in the field. I just don’t think he’ll have enough in the tank to get it done. There are a couple of problems for him. First, the speed horses have enough quality that they aren’t going to entirely disappear. Second, there are so many horses that will be in the second-tier behind the speed that it will require a lot of luck for Dullahan to get through. The Derby is the wrong place to bet on luck.
Creative Cause should have kept the blinkers on
I really like the quality of Creative Cause. He has been tested a lot, and he has never been outside of the Top 3. He also beat Bodemeister nicely two races back. The biggest problem, though, is his attention span. He raced for the first time without blinkers in the Santa Anita Derby last time out, and he didn’t handle it well. He looked distracted down the stretch, and that clearly cost him the race. He’s going without blinkers in the Kentucky Derby again, though. The Derby has more distractions than any other race on the planet — 160,000 screaming drunken fans, 20 horses in a chaotic rush, and the longest distance any of the horses have ever faced. He has enough to overcome without having to deal with trying to stay focused as well. This seems like a terrible time to experiment, and it’s going to cost him his chance.
And the winner is...
Bodemeister. I think. There is a lot to question about this horse, and a lot he has to overcome. I am seduced by three things, though. His last race was so impressive, and he’s shown that he learns and is maturing quickly. He has room to grow, and he already has put forward the best performance of the year. Second, Bob Baffert is as good as there is, and he’s training particularly well right now. He’s come close recently, but this is the best horse has had here in a long time, and he’ll be ready. Third, Mike Smith is a perfect fit with this horse. He rode him just once, and it was a magical race. He’s patient, he has amazing timing, and he can obviously make this horse relax.
There are a whole lot of things that could get in the way of this horse winning — a messed up early pace scenario, his inexperience, trip trouble, and so on. In the end, though, you just have to go with the best horse, and I feel confident that this is him. With a favorite — even one at a reasonably juicy price like this one -- you have to choose either to go with him or to try to beat him. For the first time in a few years I’m with the favorite.
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