After carrying the lead for the majority of the race, including a five-length lead nearing the final stretch, Clarke County native, Bodemeister finished a length behind, I’ll Have Another at today’s Kentucky Derby. More than 50 of Clarke County’s horse enthusiasts gathered in Berryville to watch the race by television, and while Bodemeister was the clear favorite of the crowd, most agreed that this year’s Derby was a little harder to predict than in years past due to the strength of the field.
The gathering was sponsored by the Clarke County Equine Alliance.
“I’d love to see Bodemeister win, but I also have strong feelings about Unions Rags because his owner grew up in Middleburg,” said Goshen Farms horse breeder, Robin Richards referring to Phyllis Mills Wyeth. “I’ve just always admired her.”
But, according to Clarke County veterinarian and horse racing expert, Dr. Eric Myer, even the best horses don’t always take the win at Churchill Downs.
“A lot has to do with positioning and where the horse is at different points in the race,” Myer said as the Derby contenders were being placed in the gate prior to the start of the race. “You really have to admire the horses and how well trained they are. It is so easy for a horse to make a mistake and hurt themselves. We refer to it as the ‘professionalism’ of the horse.”
True to Dr. Myer’s statement, Mario Gutierrez, a first time jockey at Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, grabbed an unexpected victory today while riding, I’ll Have Another.
Horse breeder Chris Bates, who raises thoroughbred horses that have raced at some of the most prestigious tracks in the United States, came to the gathering with a list of bets that he intended to place for family and friends on the Derby.
While Bates said that he was very pleased to see a Clarke horse in the Kentucky Derby, his favorite for the race was a white horse named Hansen. Although Bates listed a number of reasons why he liked Hansen to win, the final determination may have come down to one factor.
“It’s just hard to bet against a white horse,” Bates laughed.
As the traditional singing of My Old Kentucky Home played as the horses were being led to the starting gate, many people at the Berryville gathering made a quick trip to the bar at the Camino Real restaurant where the event was held in order to ensure that a mint julep was available to sip as the race was being run.
Once the bell rang and the horses made a clean break from the starting chute in today’s 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, voices fell silent and all eyes in the room were locked on the television. With Bodemeister in the lead at the half-way point of the race, many in the room seemed afraid to cheer the horse on in fear if breaking any magic spell that might carry the horse to a win.
Yet with Bodemeister still in the lead coming down the homestretch the room became electric. People cheered and clapped hoping to give the horse just enough of a hometown nudge to cross the finish line first.
Bodemeister’s magic ran out just a horse length too soon and the win was lost to the surging, I’ll Have Another. As it became clear that Clarke County’s celebrity thoroughbred had captured second place many of the racing fans smiled and looked at each other as if to say “I wish he had won but I’m still proud of the way that he ran that race.”
View the reaction of racing fans to Bodemeister’s race here: