Bodemeister, the bay colt named after the trainer's 7-year-old son, rocketed to the front Saturday and led by as many as three lengths. But he couldn’t hold on in a furiously fast pace as was overtaken by I’ll Have Another.
“He was there,” Baffert said. “He just got tired.”
Baffert broke down, too, when he thought about his son’s disappointment, tearing up and walking away in the paddock.
“I was watching my little son, Bode, I feel so bad for him ...” said Baffert, who named his boy after his ski pal, Bode Miller.
The horse had become a Derby favorite when he won the Arkansas Derby by 9½ lengths.
Bodemeister and jockey Mike Smith appeared poised to pull off a wire-to-wire win in Kentucky after taking a lead early and extending it heading into the stretch.
But the fast fractions caught up to him and that pace proved to be his undoing.
IN A PINCH: Union Rags never had a chance after a brutal start in the Kentucky Derby.
The Dixie Union colt ridden by Julien Leparoux was pinched back at the break and caught in-between rivals that cost him early position after being one of the most talked about contenders coming into Saturday’s race.
“He broke a step a step slow and he usually breaks well from the gate,” Leparoux said. “Then he got bumped and we dropped far back.”
That was only the half of it. After Union Rags settled into stride, Leparoux had trouble finding a clear running path.
“I had nowhere to go where I could make a move,” Leparoux said. “I knew it was going to be tough to come back.”
The winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes eventually rallied from 18th to finish seventh.
“He just had a rough trip,” trainer Michael Matz said.
TARNISHED GEM: Gemologist failed to run his winning streak to six.
The horse trained by Todd Pletcher had won twice at Churchill Downs, but expectations were tempered because of weak competition. Against an especially deep field in the Kentucky Derby, he was fifth until the final half-mile when he fell off the pace and finished 16th.
“I had a beautiful trip. I saved all the ground into the first turn, very comfortable down the backside,” jockey Javier Castellano said. “We were able to relax right behind the speed. Unfortunately, I don’t know why he didn’t run his race.”
Castellano thought the 85-degree heat might have had hurt Gemologist, while WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden searched for answers.
“He didn’t run much. It’s very disappointing,” Walden said.
"He just didn't show up."