I Want Revenge has to be the most unappealing Derby favorite in quite some time. Here's your Kentucky Derby favorite, off of two races at Aqueduct, one on the inner track, and against highly questionable competition. My God, are we so enslaved to Beyer figures that we can't come up with anything else? Or is this field just otherwise too filled with questions and uncertainties over track surfaces, layoffs and inexperience? I was at the Wood, and that was an impressive move indeed. But it certainly didn't cause my jaw to drop, like with Bellamy Road. Now that was a favorite with buzz and appeal; as were Big Brown, Street Sense, Barbaro (not the actual post-time favorite by virtue of the late punch on Sweetnorthernsaint, but considered the pre-race favorite if I recall correctly), Smarty Jones, Empire Maker, Point Given, and Fusaichi Pegasus (the only one since 2000 which I left out was Harlan's Holiday in 2002). Maybe I'm missing something? But it seems to me that there's no juice on this horse at all.
I mean that in two ways, both in favor of and against him. After all, he doesn't have the most lovable connections. But even that hasn't seemed to stir up the kind of visceral hatred we saw from some quarters regarding Big Brown, with his notorious trainer and investment banker (or so we were told) owner, both with past records of misdoings.
And worse than being unappealing, I think these connections are just plain dull. Dutrow is at least quotable, affable, and honest (in some ways) to a fault. One could make the 'lovable scamp' case for him. But Mullins is just a slug. He's surly and defensive and is on record calling horseplayers idiots. And last year, I thought Iavarone's story and his plans for IEAH were interesting if nothing else; and I thought he deserved full credit for picking Big Brown out of a maiden grass race. But I find that the IEAH thing has gotten very old very quickly. In this Derby, the culmination of Iavarone's desperate attempt to buy a very expensive bunch of roses just seems so contrived. I begrudged him nothing last year, but I find myself actively rooting against the sight of the IEAH entourage celebrating in the winner's circle as if they actually did anything to deserve it.
- Papa Clem had that little blowout today.
Two Derby horses blew out for the race, including Papa Clem (three furlongs in 34.47 seconds), who needed to do something serious and impressive following his very disappointing seven-furlong work here last week. And sure enough, that's exactly what he accomplished. With jockey Rafael Bejarano aboard, Papa Clem left the quarter pole in full stride and flew down the stretch, getting to the wire in 22.65 while reaching out nicely under some encouragement before finishing up at the seven-furlong pole and galloping out a half in 47.86. Only three furlongs but a definite improvement over his previous work. [Daily Racing Form]