KENTUCKY DERBY – WHOSE FAULT WAS IT?

Bodemeister would have won if…..

So, here we are three  days after theKentucky Derby.  Everyone is second guessing everyone else, except Bob Baffert, that is.  Whose fault was it? There are a gillion excuses for one horse or another not winning the roses.  It seems a large majority of people would have been ecstatic if Bodemeister had won.  It’s easiest to blame his exceptional 2nd place finish on Mike Smith for his ride.

I’ve never ridden a horse out of the starting gates, but I have handled a lot of race horses.  We feed them, give them all their vitamins, groom them, massage them, baby them, exercise them, school them in the paddock and the starting gates and do everything we can think of to get them on their toes for the big race.  They are like bomb with a lit fuse.

Day of the race arrives and this explosive 1100 pound animal is handed off to the jockey who is expected to keep him calm and relaxed throughout.  In the paddock, people surround this gorgeous animal like ants. He is saddled and the jockey is given a leg up.  The horse knows this is not just another day in his life as a race horse, but the jockey is now responsible for his behavior and performance.

Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert—yausser (Flickr.com)

Bob Baffert did a marvelous job of conditioning and training BodemeisterMike Smith is one of the nation’s top jockeys.  Bodemeister is a well bred, well conformed and a well behaved horse, but he has never set foot on a track in front of 165,000+ cheering people to run a 1 ¼ mile race.  Can you imagine what is going through this young horse’s mind?  Neither can I, but Mike Smith is supposed to be able to convince him it’s just another day at the race track.

Mike did an exceptional job of assuring his mount that all was well.  Bodemeister comported himself well in front of all the people, and in the starting gate.

When the gates opened and 19 other horses thundered out, Bodemeister was right there in front.  He is a horse that was born to outrun other horses and that’s all he was thinking about.

In my experience of running a lot of horse races across some pasture or down the country road on my kid horse, I always found that no horse wants another horse’s head in front.  Often times, it was impossible to hold them back.  Sure, I wasn’t a professional jockey, but I was a darn good rider.  During a race, the horse was zoned out on everything except getting his head in front of his challenger.

One of my gurus told me that trying to hold a horse, rate him if you will, is more fatiguing to the horse than letting him run.  This is because the horse is fighting the jockey all the way and uses more energy doing that than just running without interference.

Everyone knew when Trinniberg entered the Derby, the entire dynamics of the race would change.  Trinniberg  tried to go to the front when the gates opened.  Trinniberg is one of the few horses that had as much early speed as Bodemeister,  but he didn’t have enough speed to get his head in front.  Sadly, he just threw it out there and quit.  It was enough to cause Bodemeister to use more energy than necessary at the beginning of the race.

Wonder what the outcome would have been if Bodemeister had drawn the No. 19 Post Position?

That’s horse racing, folks!!

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