Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Other 50-1 Shot

Well, we have all fallen in love with Mine That Bird and the truly unbelievable story of his trip from finishing 4th in the Sunland Park Derby to being vanned to Churchill Downs by his trainer, who was utilizing crutches, to winning the Kentucky Derby. Honestly, the whole thing could have been made into a movie had he gone on to win the Triple Crown (and really, it still could be a good flick, because it is just that improbable). However, we are being remiss in dismissing the other 50-1 shot that won the Derby this decade, Giacomo in 2005.

You should remember the hype leading up to the Derby that year centered on Bellamy Road, who had devastated the field in the Wood Memorial and was a strong favorite. Afleet Alex was also a big story entering the first Saturday in May that year, with Alex's Lemonade Stands prevalent at many racetrack around the country (not to mention the fact that he would go on to win the Preakness and Belmont after the Derby). Giacomo had only won once before the Derby in his career and ran 4th in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in his final prep before the Kentucky Derby.

Bellamy Road was done in by the frenetic pace on the front end and Afleet Alex ran a decent 3rd in the Derby, but would get knocked off by both 50-1 shot, Giacomo, who closed to win and 71-1 shot, Closing Argument (who honestly ran the best race on Derby Day, lying close to the pace and holding on for second behind Giacomo). That exacta made for a nearly $10,000 payout for the $2 return. It also made up for the failure of his Sire, Holy Bull, in the Kentucky Derby eleven years earlier, when he ran 12th on Derby Day as the betting choice. The victory also got jockey Mike Smith off the Derby donut, which he was as puzzled by as the rest of us.

Giacomo ran 3rd in the 2005 Preakness and 7th in the Belmont Stakes that year, both times behind Afleet Alex. In fact, he only won once more in his career, the 2006 San Diego Handicap. He did run a gallant 4th in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs that year. So, while Mine That Bird is being lionized in 2009, and rightly so, let us not forget the Derby hero of 2005, because he deserves all the respect we can give him, rightly so once again.

Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

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