What a scene it would have been.
Bodemeister, the 4-1 morning line favorite, seemed to run effortlessly around most of track at Churchill Downs on Saturday, opening a lead of four lengths coming out of the final turn.
He would have been trainer Bob Baffert's fourth Kentucky Derby winner. He would have invoked reverential talk of horses gone by. He would have been the next one with a true shot at ending a Triple Crown drought that has lasted since 1978.
But Bodemeister — whose name comes from a nickname for Baffert's son Bode — got tired. Baffert, who suffered a heart attack in Dubai in late March, appeared calm afterward.
"I have no complaints there," he said. "We got beat. You get beat. But he showed up and that's all a trainer can ask for is that his horse shows up on the big days, and he showed up."
Baffert shrugged off questions about Bodemeister's conditioning all week. The colt did not run last year as a 2-year old — and no horse in that situation has won the Derby in 130 years — but did cite lack of experience after the race.
Baffert had advised hall of fame jockey Mike Smith to let Bodemeister run if he wanted to, despite temperatures in the mid-80s and a fast field.
And run Bodemeister did.
"He was doing it easily," Baffert said. "He was within himself. He was being pressed, but he's a brilliant horse. That the way he wanted to run."
Smith tried to take solace in how unbelievable Bodemeister's race would be if you could just forget about that last part.
"He didn't finish first," he said, "but he's still the winner. He's such a free running horse that I couldn't take that away from him."
Said Baffert: "That's the only time I've run second where I've been happy because he ran his race."
Went the Day Well breaks, Done Talking doesn't
Hamilton Smith and Graham Motion once worked their horses in barns not far from each other at Laurel Park.
On Saturday, Smith's Done Talking and Went the Day Well, trained by Motion out of his current stable at Fair Hill, ran stride for stride in the 138th Kentucky Derby.
Went the Day Well found room and reserve to make a run at pace-setter Bodemeister, coming across the line fourth behind winner I'll Have Another, Bodemeister and Dulluhan.
That despite a rough ride for John Velazquez, who guided Animal Kingdom — also trained by Motion — to a Derby win last year.
"Johnny said he just had a tough trip," Motion said. "As good a trip as he got last year, he had a tough trip this year."
Done Talking, a closer, could not make his run
"When I asked him to go at the half-mile pole, I think he had gotten so much dirt, it's hard for a horse to pick up when you've gotten that much dirt, especially in a 20-horse field," 24-year-old and Derby rookie Sheldon Russell said. "I was right next to Went the Day Well when he picked it up and I just couldn't go with him."