In an era when good form as a two-year-old doesn’t always translate to success at three, the 138th Kentucky Derby stood out as an anomaly. A record nine starters from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, including champion Hansen, made it to the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. So many horses carrying their form over to their three-year-old season made the Kentucky Derby again one of the toughest races to handicap. Bodemeister, off a stellar performance in the Arkansas Derby, was made the tepid 4-1 morning line favorite. Only three others in the capacity field of 20 had odds of less than 10-1: Union Rags, considered the Derby favorite by many in early 2012, Wood Memorial victor Gemologist and Blue Grass Stakes champion Dullahan.
On Derby Day, no horses had scratched, meaning Churchill’s new “also eligible” list for the Derby would not be a factor. As has become tradition, finding the overlooked horse that might take the roses was a major topic of discussion. Could it be Hansen, the two-year-old champion with great early speed and tenacity? What about Take Charge Indy, winner of the Florida Derby with three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel aboard? Many pointed toward the West Coast entries of I’ll Have Another, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, and Creative Cause, a consistent performer that had never lost by more than a length.
There appeared to be a good amount of early speed in this year’s Derby with Hansen, Trinniberg and Bodemeister, but it was the latter that took a clear lead. Being pressed by Trinniberg heading into the backstretch, Bodemeister set a very brisk pace, running a ½ mile in :45 and change leaving many in the crowd feeling it was impossible to carry that speed all the way to the finish.
As the field hit the top of the stretch, Trinniberg began to fade, Hansen was still making great effort but not gaining ground and Bodemeister’s lead was actually increasing. However, I’ll Have Another was poised to strike. Placed beautifully behind the front runners by jockey Mario Gutierrez through the first mile, I’ll Have Another had a clear path at the top of the stretch and cruised past a game, but tired, Bodemeister to win the Kentucky Derby. Dullahan and Went the Day Well also used strong finishes to take third and fourth respectively. Union Rags had a very troubled trip and finished seventh, while Gemologist started in mid-pack and faded, finishing 16th.
I’ll Have Another was the first Kentucky Derby winner for owner J. Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and breeder Harvey Clarke. Jockey Mario Gutierrez joined a small group of riders to win the Kentucky Derby on their first attempt. I’ll Have Another is the son of Flower Alley, starter in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and winner of the 2005 Travers Stakes.
The Kentucky-bred horse was named for Reddam’s frequent request for another cookie from his wife, Zillah. The Reddams purchased I’ll Have Another with assistance from trainer Doug O’Neill’s brother, Dennis O’Neill, for $35,000 at the Ocala two-year-old sales in 2011.
Order of Finish... 1. I’ll Have Another (Gutierrez, Mario) 2. Bodemeister (Smith, Mike) 3. Dullahan (Desormeaux, Kent) 4. Went the Day Well (Velazquez, John) 5. Creative Cause (Rosario, Joel) 6. Liaison (Garcia, Martin) 7. Union Rags (Leparoux, Julien) 8. Rousing Sermon (Lezcano, Jose) 9. Hansen (Dominguez, Ramon) 10. Daddy Nose Best (Gomez, Garrett) 11. Optimizer (Court, Jon) 12. Alpha (Maragh, Rajiv) 13. El Padrino (Bejarano, Rafael) 14. Done Talking (Russell, Sheldon) 15. Sabercat (Nakatani, Corey) 16. Gemologist (Castellano, Javier) 17. Trinniberg (Martinez, Willie) 18. Prospective (Contreras, Luis) 19. Take Charge Indy (Borel, Calvin) 20. Daddy Long Legs (O’Donoghue, Colm)
Photos by Linda Doane www.doanephoto.com