Bodemeister named 4-1 favorite in hard-to-figure Kentucky Derby field

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Exercise rider George Alvarez gallops Kentucky Derby hopeful Bodemeister at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, April 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

LOUISVILLE – In the race that hardly ever runs to form, Bodemeister was named the favorite for Saturday’s 138th annual Kentucky Derby and drew the cozy sixth post position.

The horse named for Olympic skier Bode Miller – a generation and a species removed – was made the 4-1 morning-line top choice for the $2.2 million Run for the Roses by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia after Wednesday afternoon’s post-position draw in Churchill Downs’ Secretariat Lounge.

‘‘If he gets the opportunity to run like he can, he’s going to run dynamite,” jockey Mike Smith said of the horse that won the Arkansas Derby by 9½ lengths. ‘‘I like the post.”

Oddsmaking is an inexact science for the 1¼-mile test that is America’s most prestigious horse race, more art than empirical formula. More confusing in 2012 is that no 3-year-old in the 20-horse field has emerged as a potential super horse to excite the public.

The high-profile signature races of the spring should have sorted out pretenders and contenders, but, at best, results provide only general knowledge.

Union Rags, handled by trainer Michael Matz, who fine-tuned Barbaro to glory in 2006, had the biggest fan club before winter and this spring won the Florida Derby and placed second in the Fountain of Youth. The horse is a 9-2 second choice and also got a nice slot the gate in fourth.

The despised locations in the Derby are No. 1 along the rail and No. 20 on the far outside.

‘‘Those two spots are tough to win out of,” said Smith, who should know after winning the Derby aboard Giacomo in 2005 and two other Triple Crown races.

Horse players are fickle and gravitate to a flavor of the month. Hence, a rising tide for Bodemeister because of that dominating Arkansas finish, but in spite of his not racing as a 2-year-old.

Gemologist, a Todd Pletcher-trained horse, not only captured the Wood Memorial but is a perfect 5-for-5 in his career and is the third favorite at 6-1. Hansen, winner of $1.6 million, is also 6-1.

The combination of a win in the Blue Grass Stakes and being prepared by local trainer Dale Romans could make Dullahan (8-1 with the fifth starting slot) a popular choice. Appealing to those who like a stiff drink would be I’ll Have Another, winner of the Santa Anita Derby.

The horse with the cutest name, Daddy Long Legs, has won $1.3  million overseas, and his human lineage of owner Michael Tabor and trainer Aidan O’Brien is pretty solid. But he drew the dreaded No. 1 spot and is rated at 30-1.

The Derby always can use a speed horse to set the pace to the first turn. Trinniberg, one of several horses at 50-1 (Illinois Derby winner Done Talking is one of them) is a possibility

Trainer Bisnath Parboo, 72, of Trinidad seems undaunted that the horse never has run more than seven furlongs: ‘‘The way he’s training now, I’m 100 percent certain he’s going to win.”

Parboo is the only one around Churchill Downs this week 100 percent sure of anything.

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