SARATOGA SPRINGS — If Christopher Reeve was forever typecast as Superman, the Bodexpress camp can empathize.
Still a maiden when he ran in the Preakness last year, the bay colt sealed his legacy when he bucked out of the starting gate, flipping John Velazquez to the ground before following the field riderless around the Pimlico oval.
For viewers who had never seen a loose horse in a race before, Bodexpress achieved instant legend status, especially when he galloped through the finish line and continued on with an outrider scrambling to catch him.
The ultimate racetrack rebel was finally corralled back near the finish line as the Preakness runners were being unsaddled, a dangerous situation that was defused by excellent horsemanship.
Since then, he has shown more naughty antics but has also developed into a horse good enough to have run in the $3 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January, when he was fifth to Mucho Gusto.
And he was on the bubble to run in Saturday’s Grade I Whitney at Saratoga Race Course, but trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. decided on Monday to wait for an easier spot in the Alydar on Aug. 9.
With exercise rider J.J. Delgado in the saddle, Bodexpress breezed five furlongs in 1:02.12 on the main track. Assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. said if Bodexpress finishes first or second in the Alydar, they’ll take a look at the Grade I Woodward on Sept. 5.
“The best race for him is the Alydar,” Delgado Sr. said. “The conditions for the Alydar are very good.”
“It [Alydar] makes more sense, especially because it’s been four months since last time,” Delgado Jr. said. “And the Whitney is going to be a tough race.”
Bodexpress’ name will always connote a free spirit.
And the Delgados are OK with that.
In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the @ShamIAmNot Twitter account, a must-follow for horse racing humor, posted: “#SocialDistancing Tip: Just be like Bodexpress in the Preakness and do whatever it takes to avoid all human contact.”
“Oh, yeah, everybody’s still asking about him, on Twitter and social media. Still, today,” Delgado Jr. said. “That’s good. Somehow, people just want to see how it’s going with him. It’s always fun.”
How it’s going with him is that, although he reared and broke through the starting gate in the Grade III Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park in December before reloading and finishing third, he also broke a track record for a mile there in an allowance in his previous start, in November.
After the Pegasus, Bodexpress finished up the track in the Gulfstream Park Mile in February and was a close third in the Grade III Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream on March 28, hiss last start.
He was scheduled to run in the Monmouth Cup on the Haskell undercard on July 18, but was a vet scratch on the track because of a minor laceration on his head that he most likely suffered on the van ride from New York.
“We shipped him to Monmouth, and we couldn’t send anybody because they wouldn’t allow them to come back [unless quarantining for 14 days],” Delgado Jr. said. “So the horse went by himself. When he got there, the guy picking up said, ‘Hey, listen, he’s got a little bump on his head. Is this new or old?’ I said, ‘No, that’s new. That’s probably from the van.’
“And it appeared to be nothing major, but then he was warming up for the race, he started bleeding, the state vet looked at him and he scratched. It was the right thing to do. But he’s fine. He came back the same day. We checked him the other day, and he seems fine.”
After the scratch out of the Monmouth Cup, the Delgados weren’t looking to be aggressive with the Monday breeze.
Bodexpress is race-ready, so they’ll keep him on track for Aug. 9 and the Alydar, his first start in almost four months.
“Actually, it was kind of maintenance, because he was supposed to run last week at Monmouth, and he didn’t race or work last week, so we wanted to see where he was at,” Delgado Jr. said. “He’s feeling good, you can tell. He did it all by his own, and we like that he didn’t come back too tired.
“He [J.J. Delgado] said he’s feeling good. That kind of work, you can tell he’s on the right path.”
Javier Castellano will ride Bodexpress and also stablemate Caracaro, who was second to Country Grammer in the Peter Pan at Saratoga on opening day and will point toward the Aug. 8 Travers. The regular rider for both horses, Emisael Jaramillo, is barred from the grounds as an out-of-towner because of the jockey lockdown to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Castellano is scheduled to breeze Caracaro on Saturday, his first published work wince the Peter Pan.
“He’s training well,” Delgado Jr. said. “He’s doing everything we asked him to. He’s got good energy, a good eye, everything we like to see after a race.
CODE OF HONOR BREEZES
Code of Honor, the 2019 Travers winner, got in his final serious work for the Whitney, breezing a half-mile in 49.04 during the first set on the Oklahoma training track at 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Regular exercise rider Lexi Peaden was in the irons.
“That’s exactly what we wanted. I just wanted him to have a little bit of work and that’s what I asked for him to go in,” trainer Shug McGaughey told the New York Racing Association. “I always breeze him on the Monday before he runs on Saturday. That seems to put him on his game. He’s had two good works up here and he seems to be doing fine.
“She [Peaden] does a great job on him. She doesn’t miss a beat and I have confidence that he’ll go out and do what we want him to do,” said McGaughey. “He’s a pretty push-button horse. If I put a jock on him, he might go a little bit faster than what I want him to. This way, we’ll leave a little something in there.”
Eclipse Award winner Midnight Bisou also worked early in the morning on the Oklahoma in her final published breeze before the Grade I Personal Ensign on the Whitney card.
She went 25.2 for the first quarter-mile and finished a half in 50.55.
Ricardo Santana, Jr. will have the call aboard Midnight Bisou on Saturday, since regular rider Mike Smith isn’t allowed to travel to Saratoga Race Course.