It is generally agreed upon by most horse racing experts that one of the most prolific turf riders of the last quarter-century has been Corey Nakatani. That would make it seem kind of odd, then, that Nakatani has elected to shift his tack from his usual Southern California base and now set up shop at Oaklawn Park, which we all know, doesn't have a turf course.
Ah, but those that think that are missing out of the greater goal that Nakatani has set for himself. He would like to win a Kentucky Derby and according to him, going through Arkansas might be the best way to set himself up to do that. His point is well taken, given that so many high quality three-year-olds of the last several years (Smarty Jones, Curlin, Afleet Alex, even going back to Victory Gallop) certainly acquitted themselves quite well not only in Kentucky, but all the way through the Triple Crown trail. Even last year's upset winner, Papa Clem, finished a strong fourth in the Derby, losing out on a photo with Pioneerof The Nile and Musket Man for second behind Mine That Bird.
I really like what Nakatani is doing with himself in his quest to get the Roses on the First Saturday In May. He could have tried to remain in Southern California and get himself to Kentucky that way, but he is thinking outside the box here and going somewhere that he is familiar with (having ridden and won some major races at Oaklawn in the past) and gives him easier access to maybe chase his Derby dream at other east and midwest tracks like Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Hawthorne, Keeneland, and Aqueduct. Instead of the horses coming to him, he is going to the horses.
I would like to see Nakatani on a live mount come May 1. This way, he will have at least partially achieved his objective, which is to keep his dream alive of winning the Kentucky Derby. We all know that in the real world, not every dream can come true, but it is nice to see people still pursuing those dreams with everything that they have. The least we can do is root for them.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!