The Kentucky Derby is a career-defining race. When a horse secures a Victory in the Run for the Roses its place in the annals of racing history is etched in stone.
While fame and glory are bestowed upon the Winners, in many cases forgotten runners-up have turned in efforts almost or equally as gallant as the champions.
In homage to TIZ THE LAW and his runner-up finish in the Derby two Saturdays back, let’s take a look at three modern day horses who gave ultimate performances in the KD only to come up short at Churchill Downs.
Three horses in history have completed the Kentucky Derby in less than 2 minutes, yet only two of them — SECRETARIAT (1973) and MONARCHOS (2001) — managed to reach the Winner’s Circle.
Unfortunately, the second-fastest Derby starter in history had the misfortune to be born in the same year as SECETARIAT.
The talented SHAM entered the 1973 Run for the Roses with an improving resume, having Won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) before finishing 2nd by a head in the Wood Memorial (G1).
Despite the historic nature of his performance, SHAM couldn’t hold off the late surge of SECRETARIAT and settled for the runner-up spot, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.
SECRETARIAT, quite literally had massive heart, estimated to have weighed 22 pounds — far exceeding the average Thoroughbred heart weight of 8 to 9 pounds.
It is one of the strangest ironies of sport that SHAM was blessed with an 18-pound heart, the second-largest ever recorded, only to be outrun and overshadowed by the record holder.
Who knows what SHAM might have achieved if he’d come of age in any year other than 1973.
CAPTAIN BODGIT (1997)
In a normal year, CAPTAIN BODGIT would have Won the Kentucky Derby. Fresh off Victories in the Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial (G2).
The 3-1 favorite did everything right that day at Churchill Downs. He settled in mid-pack for most of the journey, gradually edging closer up the backstretch. He rallied strongly into contention on the far turn. He swung wide into the stretch and took aim at the leaders.
But The Captain wasn’t facing an ordinary rival. He had the bad luck to compete in the same Kentucky Derby as SILVER CHARM, who would retire with nearly $7 million in earnings after Winning 11 Graded Stakes races during his Hall of Fame career.
CAPTAIN BODGIT surged up alongside SILVERCHARM in the Derby homestretch. But try as he might — and he was still gaining ground slightly at the finish — he could not seal the deal against SILVER CHARM, falling short by a heartbreaking head.
If ever a horse ran too well to lose in the Kentucky Derby, it was BODEMEISTER. Trained by Bob Baffert, he didn’t debut until January of his 3-year-old year, but he arrived at Churchill Downs as the favorite to Win after dominating the Arkansas Derby (G1) by 9 1/2 lengths.
In the Derby, BODEMEISTER ran a stellar race. Sent straight to the lead by jockey Mike Smith, the Virginia-bred colt dueled with future champion sprinter TRINNIBERG through blazing fractions of :22.32, :45.39, and 1:09.80 — all ranking in the 10 fastest pace splits in KD history.
TRINNIBERG threw in the towel at the 3/4 mark, and amazingly, BODEMEISTER opened up a clear lead in the homestretch and passed the eighth pole three lengths in front.
But his early exertions took a toll in the final furlong, and BODEMEISTER with nothing left in the tank, weakened late to (barely) finish 2nd by 1 1/2 lengths to the hard-charging I’LL HAVE ANOTHER. It was yet another example of a gallant performance, but it wasn’t quite enough to get BODEMEISTER a blanket of Roses.