Kentucky Derby

Baffert relieved after Bodemeister draws post 6, is made Kentucky Derby favorite

Bodemeister was led back into the barn by hot walker Theodrick Hayes Jr,   following  preparation for the upcoming Kentucky Derby  on Wednesday  May 2, 2012 in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Bodemeister was led back into the barn by hot walker Theodrick Hayes Jr, following preparation for the upcoming Kentucky Derby on Wednesday May 2, 2012 in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

LOUSIVILLE — The post position draw for the 2010 Kentucky Derby was like a bad breakup for trainer Bob Baffert.

Two years after the fact, the Hall of Famer still can recall the angst when he heard his champion colt Lookin At Lucky had drawn the dreaded rail for the 20-horse rodeo that is the first leg of the Triple Crown.

As Baffert sat in Churchill Downs' Secretariat Lounge Wednesday afternoon waiting to see which post his Grade I-winning trainee Bodemeister would draw for Saturday's 138th Kentucky Derby, he hoped he wasn't about to receive another version of a Dear John letter.

"After Lookin At Lucky, when he got the one hole, the excitement just left me because I knew he just had too much to overcome," Baffert recalled. "I just didn't want to see (Bodemeister) in the one."

Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister escaped that fate Wednesday, drawing post-position No. 6 in this year's 20-horse lineup and subsequently being deemed the 4-1 morning-line favorite by odds maker Mike Battaglia.

Grade I winner Union Rags drew post No. 4 and was made the 9-2 second choice, with unbeaten Wood Memorial winner Gemologist the 6-1 third choice out of post No. 15.

Battaglia had been debating between Union Rags, winner of the Fountain of Youth, and Bodemeister in recent weeks. With the latter delivering a spectacular 91/2-length victory in the Grade I Arkansas Derby in just his fourth career start, the son of Empire Marker earned the handicapping edge.

"I haven't had two favorites this close since Street Sense and Curlin" in 2007, said Battaglia, who has been making the Derby morning line since 1975. "It was very close. Bodemeister's Arkansas Derby was huge. He got a big number, it was 10 points higher than any other horse on the Beyer (Speed Figures) scale, which bettors look at."

Eight horses have won the 11/4-mile race from the No. 1 post since the use of the starting gate in 1930, but none has since Ferdinand in 1986. When Lookin At Lucky broke from the rail for Baffert in 2010, the son of Smart Strike got slammed at the start before finishing sixth as the race favorite.

After Bodemeister drew the six hole, the stress was reduced on Baffert's recently repaired arteries following a heart attack in Dubai in late March.

As other major contenders also managed to dodge the rail, yelps of relief were heard throughout the crowd.

"Everybody, you can tell when they draw a number they're just relieved they didn't get the one hole," Baffert said. "I was so relieved, thinking if he gets the one hole, they just don't want me to win this Derby."

The connections of juvenile champion Hansen were among those sweating it out the most. With only the rail and the No. 14 hole left and Hansen's name yet to be pulled, another sigh of relief came from that camp when it was announced that 50-1 shot Daddy Long Legs would be the one stuck inside.

Along with Bodemeister and Trinniberg, who will break from post No. 9, the front-running Hansen is expected to be among the horses prompting what could be a wicked early pace. With both of those speedsters drawing inside of him, though, Hansen could be positioned to relax for his 10-furlong journey.

"If we would have gotten the one, I would have said we would have to set a track record now," said Dr. Kendall Hansen, breeder and co-owner of Hansen. "We would have to go out there and chase Secretariat. But now we don't have to do that, and you don't get pinched back like you can in the one."

Union Rags, second to Hansen in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November, might have to use more early speed than planned out of post No. 4, but he shouldn't be terribly comprised with Grade I winners Take Charge Indy (post No. 3) and Dullahan (No. 5) around him.

"We're going to have to run out of there a little bit," said Michael Matz, trainer of Union Rags. "My original thought was that I wasn't crazy about (the four hole), but where everybody is, I don't think it's so bad."

The Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Gemologist and El Padrino will be side by side in posts Nos. 15 and 16, respectively.

"Perfect. It worked out perfect," Pletcher said of his pair. "I love the 15, the first one in the auxiliary gate. They're both together, so it makes it easier in the paddock."

This year's Kentucky Derby features an also-eligible list for the first time. My Adonis, seventh in the Wood Memorial last time out, was the 21st horse entered, but he can get in only if one of the other 20 entrants is scratched by 9 a.m. Friday.

Should that occur, My Adonis would be put in post No. 20, and other contenders would move toward the rail if needed.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader