Can Zayat Stables and Bob Baffert reap revenge for Bodemeister with their Belmont horse, Paynter? Baffert’s thinking maybe!
(Empire Maker x Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat)
Trainer: Bob Baffert (Lookin at Lucky, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, War Emblem)
Jockey: Mike Smith (With over 5,000 wins and more than 20 years of experience, Mike Smith has won each of the Triple Crown races once along with a near-record 15 Breeders’ Cup wins among countless other graded events. He’s been a go-to veteran wherever he is stationed, riding top horses such as Holy Bull, Zenyatta, Skip Away, and many more over the years)
Owned by: Zayat Stables
Summary: One heck of a late bloomer, Bodemeister was brought along slowly to break his maiden at Santa Anita in February, but has since been unstoppable and a surprisingly mature new gun on the Derby scene. His connections are among the most lethal in the Triple Crown series, with trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith winning each of the legs at least once while owner Zayat Stables has come close to a Derby victory a heart-renching three times: 2nd with Nehro in 2011, 2nd with Pioneerof the Nile in 2009, and helmed the favorite Eskendereya in 2010, who did not make it to the gate.
Prep Schedule: Broke his maiden on his second try at Santa Anita in February by more than 9 lengths over a mile on the dirt course. Came back to big hopes in the San Felipe (II), where he ran against top horses for the first time in graded company to finish second by a nose to the highly-favored Creative Cause. He left them all behind in the Arkansas Derby (I), trouncing the field by almost 10 lengths to earn an incredible 108 Beyer— the highest of any three-year-old thus far. He outran older horses in an earlier race that day, the Oaklawn Handicap, by more than a second (equates to more than 5 lengths).
Running Style: Adaptable, off-the-pace
Pros: Mike Smith said Bode made all the right moves in the Arkansas, so no surprise there, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. Smith never asked the horse for his best in that race, which he won by a huge margin while setting a triple-digit Beyer. Awesome connections and brilliant talent makes this horse worthy of the title “Derby favorite.”
Cons: Win streaks were made to be broken, and Bode has yet to have that off day or encounter bad luck as a young horse. While no one going to the gate has run more than Bodemeister this year (4 times), he never ran as a two-year-old which can be predictive of success: the last horse to win the Derby who did not start as a two-year-old was Apollo… in 1882. Can Bode keep improving to topple the curse?
Final Word: I think someone else said it perfectly when saying that while nobody is being scared off by Bodemeister, he certainly is scary. He’s a giant, but a fragile one with only 4 total career starts under his belt. He has the pedigree to win, the connections to win, but will still need much luck and heart to get to the wire first. While I reserve my final praise for Bode’s chances, he has more than a good shot to win but has to do so facing off against more than one good horse in the most challenging race of his life.