We are now into the second half of the racing season and the news keeps getting worse for the three year old male division. It’s the division that receives the most spotlight due to the popularity of its mainstream races such as the Kentucky Derby. As usual every year leading up to the Derby, several contenders go down to injury. This year, that happened to Algorithms (Holy Bull Stakes winner), Thunder Moccasin (Hutcheson Stakes) and Secret Circle (Southwest and Rebel Stakes). The Kentucky Derby sported a full field of 20 with the favorite being Bodemeister after his impressive 9 lengths win in the Arkansas Derby. He was defeated by Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll Have Another. Just two weeks later, the pair would hook up again in the Preakness and didn’t disappoint. The two would draw clear from the rest of the field and go down to the wire in a thriller. I’ll Have Another prevailed once again.
The sports World had their eyes set on horse racing as there was a legitimate opportunity for a triple crown winner for the first time in well over three decades. In addition, we would have the opportunity to see the top two horses from the previous two legs of the triple crown due battle once again. Within a couple of days after the running of the Preakness, trainer Bob Baffert ruled Bodemeister out of the Belmont Stakes leaving I’ll Have Another with even more of a chance to accomplish the rare feat. However, in just a matter of minutes, and a couple of days prior to the race in Elmont, NY, that potential turned into a nightmare. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another was forced to retire due to a leg injury. Dreams and hopes dashed as quickly as the colt entered the scene just a few weeks earlier in Lexington.
To add to the disappointment of not having the top horse in the division around for the last few months of the season, several other top stakes winner in 2012 have been retired or put on the shelf due to injuries. Wood Memorial winner Gemologist injured himself during the Kentucky Derby and is finally back in training at Saratoga. Will he return to form? Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy was also injured in the Derby and has not resumed training. Three-time graded winner Creative Cause hasn’t been seen since running 3rd in the Preakness. Withers Stakes winner Alpha hasn’t raced since running 12th in the Derby. He has finally resumed training in Saratoga as well. Coolmore Lexington Stakes winner Went the Day Well (4th in Derby) is out for the remainder of the year. Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags will be gone for the next several months as well. Risen Star winner El Padrino hasn’t returned to any action since his 13th place effort in the Derby. Louisiana Derby and Risen Star runner-up Mark Valeski has not been seen since winning the Peter Pan Stakes on May 12. You get the point. Several injuries to top horses have put a damper on what could have been a phenomenal year of racing in the three year old male division.
Word is now circling in Southern California that Bodemeister will not return to racing, and be retired. This is strictly rumor and no definitive word has come from the Baffert camp. If this does hold true however, this could go down as one of the worst seasons for this division in recent memory.
So who would be left?!
The only other remaining graded stakes winners who would still be around are Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan (3rd in Derby but 7th in the Belmont as 5/2 favorite) and two year old male champion Hansen who won the Iowa Derby last month. It looked as if he would steer clear of the well-known races for others such as the West Virginia Derby and Super Derby. However, with the depleted three year old lineup, trainer Michael Maker might just give it a shot in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 29.
The only other horse who has showed potential to be a threat in the division is Bob Baffert’s other colt Paynter who ran a close 2nd to Union Rags in the Belmont Stakes.
There are a couple of other three year olds who have made some noise this year, but belong in the sprinting and turf categories of the division.
Silver Max is on a five race winning streak including the Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland and American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. He is entered in the Virginia Derby (G2) at Colonial Downs on July 21. The other is Trinniberg. If you throw out the ridiculous attempt in the Kentucky Derby, the Teuflesberg colt was on a three race winning streak including the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park in June until he ran 2nd as the 1/5 favorite in the CarryBack Stakes (G3) at Calder.
It’s sad the division is a complete mess. Especially since it looked so promising just a few short weeks ago. Let’s hope a couple of the previously mentioned stakes winners return to pre-Derby form and make the best of what is left in the 2012 racing season.