- I dissed Benchmark as a potential Derby sire yesterday and it wasn't only Walter that got a little offended until I explained that I was really just joking. Hordes of the sire’s disciples have taken to the streets in Buellton, CA, where he stands at stud, to demand an apology after the post was reprinted in newspapers in Denmark. As I’d mentioned, I really took the week on the beach off from thoughts of the sport of kings, but with one exception. I did think about just how utterly insane the whole Kentucky Derby thing is. Here we are still more than seven weeks away from the race and I feel like I’ve been writing about it for months…..and that’s likely because I have been. I thought about how millions – in one case 16 of them – are spent on young horses with really this one race in mind, and how utterly careless and stupidly some of them are handled (and named), as if the first Saturday in May is the final racing day of all eternity.
The thought crossed my mind that I would make this blog Derby-free – the anti-Derby site. I could easily still spend hours and hours on other subjects both on and off the track, or just on handicapping, though I’d likely lose most of my readers. It’s not at all because I’m opposed to or turned off by the race – I admit that I’m as caught up about it as anyone - but rather because there are so many wonderful resources out there on the web, what can I possibly add, really? Besides the usual – the comprehensive Triple Crown sections in the Daily Racing Form, in Bloodhorse, and Thoroughbred Times; plus Haskin (who mentions no less than 34 prospects in bold type in his latest incoherent column), and the Form’s Watchmaker and Privman.
Then you have the Kentucky Derby site itself, and one could spend hours and hours there. Links to the most recent prep replays are available right on the front page; and click on any contender and watch their three most recent races; get a detailed pedigree review, bios of the owner and breeder, and a veritable gallery of photographs of the subject horse. Not to mention all the archival material, previews of upcoming preps, top twenty selections, a countdown to post time (53 days, 8 hours, 15 minutes and 33..32..31..30 seconds at this writing) and even videos of Anna Nicole Smith, yippee.
And if that’s STILL not enough, there’s always The Downey Profile; and consider that all the information you see there is for non-subscribers! Paying customers probably get 24 hour live webcam coverage of every contender for the race, and free samples of their poop. Then there’s also Cindy Pierson Dulay’s Horse-Races.net, Brisnet’s Road to the Triple Crown columns, and now, the Louisville Courier Journal’s Derby DataTrack database, in which you can actually narrow down your contenders using whatever Derby criteria floats your boat - dosage or number of preps, whether the horse raced at two, etc., Egads!
Even here in blogland, Jessica has her neatly organized Derby section going on over at Railbird. So what I can add to these resources I don’t really know, except for one thing. If there’s any fault I can find with all of this stuff - and I'm as guilty as anyone - it’s that they take this one race far, far too seriously. I mean, it’s just a horse race. One. Race. There may be a hard and fast rule that you can’t pick a Derby horse with only three lifetime starts, but there’s no rule I know of that you can’t just have some fun with this. Besides, I can’t do any worse than last year when I arrogantly predicted that Bellamy Road would be the lone speed and dominant winner.
So I’ll try and keep it a bit irreverent here, and not everything I say is to be taken too seriously as I search for some meaning and sense out of it all, and try to come up with something as clever and profitable as Giacomo. In the course of doing so, I’m allowed to use any excuse I want to look past the favorites, even if I kind of make them up. It could be the breeding, a perceived lack of conditioning, or even if I just don’t like the trainer or the horse’s name. And if I find out that the owner contributed to Bush-Cheney, he’s an automatic throwout, so Stevie Wonderboy (remember him?) saved me the trouble by getting hurt. I don’t think that criteria is in the Derby DataTrack, but remember, it’s just….one…..race. And a nearly impossible one to handicap at that; certainly not one to make your biggest bet of the year on, even if it’s a total ball spending weeks and months trying to figure it out.
Now. Where was I? Oh yeah, Benchmark (Alydar). He won seven out of 16 lifetime starts, including three stakes wins, all at age 6, and two of those at nine furlongs. Check out his record as a sire. He has ten stakes winners out of 211 foals (prior to this year’s two-year olds), and though his progeny’s average winning distance is only 6 1/2 furlongs, he’s sired A To The Z, who has won two stakes at a mile and an eighth; Proposed, the winner of the El Encino at a mile and a sixteenth earlier this year; Silent Sighs, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks, also at a mile and a sixteenth. He’s also sired sprint stakes winners Dontsellmeshort and Red Warrior.
So is he your typical Derby sire, if there is such a thing? Probably not. Does that mean that Brother Derek can’t win it this year? Certainly not. However, search as I may, his stud farm, River Edge Farm, doesn’t have a website, and what's up with that these days? So I can bet against him on that basis alone if I want to! Look, the horse has done nothing wrong around two turns, and we may get a decent price on him in the SA Derby if one or two of Baffert’s crew come out of this weekend’s San Felipe impressively; if so, I could be all over him in that race. But four weeks after that, I’ll be looking to beat him, and I don’t really have to have a good reason, other than I want to; and because he’ll be too short of a price, which in the 20-horse stampede that is the Kentucky Derby, is perhaps the most valid reason of all.
- Haskin babbles something about Corinthian possibly not getting distracted by other horses in the Derby as he’s been in his races thus far because he could be too busy being distracted by the 150,000 people in the stands. What the hell is the guy talking about? But he makes perfect sense when he concludes that: The truth is, no one really knows what to expect from Corinthian on Derby Day, but there is no question about his talent, and that in the end could very well overcome his other issues.
- Dan Hendricks said that he had Brother Derek at about 90% for the Santa Catalina, and Alex Solis commented: “If he was only 90 percent, that’s mighty exciting.” [Downey Profile]
Hendricks explains the horse’s name in the Thoroughbred Times:
"Derek is a Mormon who went on a mission to Iraq, and anyone who goes on these missions is termed a brother."Let’s hope that this Derek isn’t planning a mission there any time soon.