My family has lived in Arizona for quite some time. I went to work in Texas for a dozen years, but even then, I still considered myself an Arizonan and have always had a tremendous fondness for the area. It was very important to me when the opportunity arose to return to Arizona and work at Turf Paradise, that I always put forth my best effort and make sure I enjoy every day I go to work there. I guess you can conclude that Arizona will always be a large part of me regardless of where I might be.
That is why the news of Uh Oh Bango's Derby dream-ending injury, which was announced on Tuesday, is such a terrible thing. No Arizona-bred horse has ever run in the Kentucky Derby. Not once in 135 previous runnings of the Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports has an Arizona horse been a part of the festivities. Uh Oh Bango currently sits in 21st place in graded earnings after his fourth-place finish in last Saturday's Arkansas Derby. He likely would have gotten into the field since it is believed that not all of the top twenty are going to go on and compete on the First Saturday In May. Unfortunately, the fracture to the left front cannon bone sustained in the Arkansas Derby ends all talk of an Arizonan in the Derby and it puts Uh Oh Bango on the sidelines for four to six months, according to his trainer Kory Owens.
I know there was quite a bit of excitement at Turf Paradise for an Arizona-bred horse to participate in the Derby and it was something those of us at the racetrack were looking quite forward to seeing. Nationally, this wasn't going to be a big deal unless Uh Oh Bango won. It probably would have been nothing more than something that Tom Hammond mentioned as a throwaway factoid about the horse when they showed him for a second or two during the post parade as the final notes of "My Old Kentucky Home" still lingered somewhere in the air above Churchill Downs. However, the possibility of an Arizona horse going for the glory in the Derby was something that the racing fans in the Grand Canyon State were clinging to for a bit of added Derby theatre. There was always the chance that he could have won the race. Certainly, crazier things have happened. Just think back twelve months for just such a scenario. After all, apart from Eskendereya and Lookin At Lucky, does anyone or anything really set this Derby field apart less than three weeks out? I don't believe so.
So, a 136th consecutive year will go by without an Arizona-bred horse being a part of the Kentucky Derby. At least, the racing fans at Turf Paradise can still reflect on the fact that their longtime, top-notch announcer, my friend Luke Kruytbosch, gave that Arizona flavor to the Derby for a decade. Hopefully, someday soon another horse will come along to maybe represent the cactus when it comes to the roses.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!