Monday, May 03, 2010

A Super Duper Derby

The 136th Kentucky Derby was won by WinStar Farms' Super Saver (pictured), ridden by Calvin Borel and trained by Todd Pletcher. Borel has now won three of the last four Derbies, something no other rider has ever done. Pletcher will now never have to listen to the "Why can't you win the Kentucky Derby?" question ever again. I am certain that will be a tremendous relief to him from now on, especially since the man has won just about everything else under the sun since arriving on the scene. The ride that Borel gave Super Saver was another masterpiece. He tucked in to the rail (where he is wont to be), was just enough behind the suicidal pace to be in perfect striking position, and timed the move to the front perfectly so the stretch run was just about over at the sixteenth pole.

It was an amazing Kentucky Derby in so many ways. The weather really did not cooperate until the absolute last second. Literally, the sun did not break through the gloom until the first few bars of "My Old Kentucky Home" were played by the band. Of course, that was not enough to render the racetrack anything but sloppy, but given the conditions that pervaded the nearby states (there was severe flooding in many places in the South), Churchill Downs' Derby Day went off more or less without a hitch.

There were several hitches once the Derby gates popped open. Mission Impazible had his chances dashed on the first turn when he was compromised in traffic after being much closer to the pace than I expected him to be in the first place. Conveyance set the early pace and it was way too fast, going the quarter in 22.3 and the half in 46 flat. From there, he faded entering the stretch and finished 15th. Sidney's Candy stopped even worse on the far turn and crawled home after running 2nd most of the way behind. He actually created tremendous traffic trouble and the second favorite ended up being nothing more than a roadblock for several horses, including my top pick Jackson Bend. Awesome Act was far from awesome on Derby Day. He was never a factor at all, never was higher than 16th in the standings and finished a puzzling 19th. Was it the track condition or the horse condition that caused the most disappointing performance of the day? Paddy O'Prado benefited a great deal from the sloppy strip and ended up third after being bet down to 11-1 by the public who caught on to the fact the horse loves the off-going. Also in that category was Noble's Promise, who inherited the lead at the top of the stretch, but just cannot get the required distance in the Derby of 1 1/4 miles. He still ran a respectable fifth. Finally, the best horse in the race was probably not the winner, but the runner-up. Ice Box came flying at the end and had he not had to check out of trouble spots MULTIPLE times during the race, he would have been crowned with the garland of roses for sure.

Who will progress to the Preakness and who will wait the five weeks to come back in the Belmont? I certainly hope that Ice Box will be in the latter category. If he does wait for New York, he will likely be the favorite (unless Super Saver goes on to win the Preakness) given the impossible circumstances he overcame to finish second in Louisville, his patented late charge running style, and the fact that trainer Nick Zito has won the Belmont with lesser animals than him (see Da'Tara).

I would like to share a nearly impossible story with you that I heard after the Derby, and call me Ripley, but you can believe it or not. There was a young man that went to a wedding this weekend and during the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, the father of the bride found out that this guy was a horse enthusiast and gave him some money to place a significant wager on the Kentucky Derby the next day. A few other people in the wedding party found out what was going on and also contributed to the fund to make it about $800 total for some bigtime Derby bets. Most of the wagers made by the young gentleman were Trifectas and Trifecta Boxes. However, he did play a $1 Superfecta ticket. The ticket broke down the following way: 4-6 with 1-2-4-6-7 with 1-2-4-6-7-9-10 with 1-2-4-6-7-9-10-11. That's right, the wedding party Superfecta ticket hit the wager for a cool $101,284.60. I have to believe that it will be a happy honeymoon for the bride and groom and the father of the bride will be able to pay for the wedding with plenty left over. It is not often you go to a wedding and end up sharing in over $100K. I'll have to get engaged sometime soon and be sure to invite this guy to the wedding.

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

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