On Bodemeister and Why Baffert Owns Oaklawn Park
Baffert’s last 3 years at OP: 17 starts, 13 wins, 2 places. That is not a misprint. Holy cow. Yet, Saturday was his first Arkansas Derby win going 1-2 with Bodemeister and Secret Circle. And other elite level competition was there also as Asmussen, Pletcher, McPeek, Lukas, and Dale Romans all had entries. Is this all purely due to chance, or are other factors at work?
As mentioned before, west coast based trainers condition their horses significantly further than do east coast based conditioners:
And I believe those longer works are the key reason why Baffert outperforms Pletcher, Mott, and others who send their charges distances of 4-5F. Again, both approaches win big races, but Baffert’s earnings per start and Classic performances trump all comers – including those who are also fortunate to train large numbers of regally-bred stock:
Secret Circle: Several 6F works and also a 7F effort.
Bodemeister: Breezed 6F THREE TIMES before ever making his first start at just 5.5F. Again breezed 6F in 1:10 at SA just before shipping to Arkansas, then after getting off the plane a few days later blew out a 5F effort.
Plum Pretty: This older filly has worked 7F three times in the last 6 weeks, and 3 three other times at 6F, prior to winning the Apple Blossom in her first start of 2012 on Friday.
The TOTAL number of 6F works by the 14 non-Baffert entries in the Apple Blossom and Arkansas Derby in the past 6 weeks of training: just 3, and only Steve Asmussen from our earlier list of ‘name’ trainers did so.
So, Oaklawn set up as a major meeting point for west coast vs east coast training methodologies, although California is only represented by Mr. Baffert. It’s safe to pronounce the West Coast as the knockout winner on Monday morning.
The next round takes place in Kentucky, where Baffert gets some help in representing California as Creative Cause for Mike Harrington and Doug O’Neill’s I’ll Have Another enter the fray – two more colts that routinely breeze 6-7F while east coasters go 4-5F.
$10k claimers from coast to coast breeze 4F weekly, does it really make sense for a 3yo trying to finish 10F in 2:02 to do so as well at this point?
Aggressive conditioning develops Classic winners, the others (in my opinion) rely on the blessings of pedigree to hand them their stars. On a different subject; years ago as California was forced to move away from dirt, Baffert was the first to realize that change would hamper his Derby chances, so he began the Oaklawn-based preps. Even with a return to lightning fast dirt at SA, he has continued the practice, good for him – that SA dirt has little in common with the CD strip, OP is a nice compromise.
Perhaps if Bodemeister, Secret Circle, Creative Cause, and I’ll Have Another fill out the Superfecta on The First Saturday in May, some east coast conditioners will take note and lengthen their works for elite level prospects?
P.S. So why did Game on Dude get demolished in the Dubai World Cup? Simple, as important as conditioning is to the process, surface trumps all. Dude had a bunch of 6-7F works under him before shipping to the desert, but all took place on the dirt at SA. Repeat after me west coast trainers who will attempt to go to Dubai in the future: Tapeta….Golden Gate Park….Tapeta….Golden Gate Park. I know it is a hassle to stable 4 hours north of your home base for just 6 weeks – but it will buy you a few lengths at Meydan and that is a $10 million dollar purse after all, where even a third place finish earns you a seven figure piece of the pie.
P.P.S. Most probably know that Bob suffered a heart attack recently in Dubai and was unable to make the trip to Hot Springs last week. It’s amazing to me that such a successful guycontinues to push himself so hard, but then again – that’s why guys like him are at the top of their professions. Get well soon Mr. Baffert.
EDIT: 5/2/12 (as the draw for the 2012 KY Derby plays on my TV…)
Finally the world, or in this case, the DRF, catches up to Baffert’s superior conditioning methods:
I’ve written about this for several months now, and on the eve of the Derby we finally see some mainstream media pick up on how Baffert bucks the cookie-cutter conditioning methods prevalent over much of the US. Of course, I may not be singing the same tune if Bodemeister turns into Comma to the Top in a few short days–