Washington Post racing columnist Andy Beyer is quick to criticize the Triple Crown participants, but he was impressed with Bodemeister’s race in the Derby  saying:

Bodemeister is a fast colt who was facing two very fast rivals: Hansen, the reigning champion of this generation of 3-year-olds; and Trinniberg, a sprinter who was certain to display his high speed and then run out of gas. Most people expected Bodemeister’s jockey, Mike Smith, to sit behind Trinniberg. But when the gate opened, Bodemeister broke more sharply than any of his rivals.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

“He was flying leaving there,” Smith said. “He was two [lengths] in front leaving the gate.” Smith and trainer Bob Baffert had talked before the race about such a scenario, and Baffert had no reservations about letting his colt go to the front.

Trinniberg showed his natural high speed, but jockey Willie Martinez wasn’t sending him on a suicide mission. So Smith was committed to try to lead the Derby from start to finish. Over the very fast Churchill Downs surface, Bodemeister sped the first quarter-mile in 22.32 seconds, a half mile in 45.39 and three quarters of a mile in 1 minute 9.80 seconds. NBC’s commentators noted that this was the fifth-fastest pace in the race’s history, but even that fact does not begin to suggest the difficulty of what Bodemeister was trying to do.

In the Derby’s 137 previous runnings, a total of 10 horses had sped the first half mile in 45.4 seconds or less. There were some legitimate contenders among them, but all ten of them virtually collapsed after this exertion. All finished in 10th place or worse. Yet Bodemeister kept on going.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Some second-guessers have criticized Smith for letting his mount go so fast in the early stages, but he was making a reasoned decision. Bodemeister had raced only four times in his career, and Baffert had not had the luxury of experimenting to learn whether he could be restrained to sit behind other horses. “I didn’t want to change his style,” the trainer said, knowing that the Derby is no place to experiment.

To read all of Beyer’s article in the Washington Post, click here