The weather wasn't nearly as hot, nor as sunny as it was supposed to be; a sea breeze phenomenon we're told by the weather folks, and the fog that obscured the view of the 11th race was evidence of that. But the (announced) crowd of 8,553, as paltry as that figure may seem to outsiders, certainly exceeded my expectations given the complete lack of marketing and media coverage, and the relentless skewering directed at NYRA by the press and politicians; particularly, and unfairly, amplified over the past year as it has been.
For Eskendereya, I couldn't help but be reminded of Bellamy Road's similarly facile Wood Memorial win; though minus the theatrics by the jockey (Johnny V was too busy looking behind him to be clowning around); and some 11 points lower on the Beyer scale (Eskendereya earned a fig of 109). And I believe the comparison is an instructive one, and one I will keep in mind when I am all...and I mean all....in against him come Derby Day four weeks hence.
Joe Drape, reporting for the Times from Santa Anita (odd isn't it that the New York Times' top racing writer would be in on the left coast reporting on a race of dubious value as a prep for a race run on a different surface rather than at a local prep which has proven to be historically significant...perhaps he's busy working on some kind of toxic story to be published on Derby Day) wrote: Better yet, Eskendereya was hardly taxed.
However, considering that the Kentucky Derby is by far the most taxing race this colt will participate in to that point, I don't consider races like the certain post-time favorite's Wood to be an ideal prep. It's kind of a conundrum; kinda like I'm penalizing the horse for being too good. However, this son of Giant's Causeway gained nothing in the way of dealing with the kind of adversity he's likely to encounter at Churchill. Again. Because, as in the Fountain of Youth, he was able to stalk an easy pace - in this case, 24 1/5 and then a breather! - a second quarter in 25 flat (all after a clean break and uneventful aftermath), behind a hopelessly outclassed NY-bred and Zito's bridesmaid Jackson Bend. So, and again as in the FOY, while there's no denying the impressiveness of his bold move to the lead; nor of his closing splits of 24.11 and 12.24 while under restraint, it's easy to comprehend why he had that much left.
No doubt that this Derby favorite has earned the distinction on merit, and that he has displayed the most talent in the crop by a comfortable margin. If Johnny V can work out the kind of trip behind slow fractions, then all power to him and his horse, and he'll probably win for fun. But we all know that that's a scenario which is highly unlikely. Far better chance he takes a bump or two after the start and, unless he picks up his pace early, is around midpack going into the first turn. Then, he'll be asked to do several things that he's never done before. And that makes him a terrible bet as a decisive favorite in the race.
On the other hand (and coast), the reviews for Garrett Gomez' ride aboard Lookin at Lucky are about as good as those for the new MGMT album.
“His ride was horrendous,” Baffert said of Gomez. “He took him back, and he was fighting him.” [NYT]The trainer didn't want to hear any excuses about how his horse cut shut off and shuffled out of the race when Victor Espinoza, riding 24-1 Who's Up, dropped in on him approaching the second turn.
“He’s using that as an excuse....It doesn’t matter. Whatever. Victor did what he did, but I mean, ‘cause I took him off of Misremembered. He gets like that. He pouts.Our game would be a more popular one if there were more trainers as animated as Baffert, wouldn't it? Maybe Gomez was doing him a favor though. Hard to imagine that Lookin at Lucky could find much more trouble even in the big race. He recovered extremely well in rallying for third, and might just be better for the experience at a price which should be more generous than if he had run off like Pletcher's horse. Front-running winner Sidney's Candy earned a Beyer of 100 (for whatever that's worth); nice job by Joe Talamo slowing the half to 48 2/5 (3/5th slower than the maiden race which was the only other two-turn main track race on the day); but again, he ain't likely to replicate that at Churchill. Setsuko flew home against the pace grain in 11.75 seconds to get the place; money prospects for Derby day.
“But he (Gomez) shouldn’t have been in that spot. ... When I saw him on the rail, I said, ‘What is he doing?” He must not have seen Jerry Bailey’s (educational) tape. We’re going to buy him some DVD’s.” [SignOnSanDiego]
- I was off on Good Friday, and spent the day at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art for you non-New Yorkers). Yes, the Tim Burton exhibit was way cool; better, in fact, than I expected, a legitimate exhibit of intricate and creepy drawings and not just a show of set pieces from his films. But it was the wacky Marina Abramovic show which will certainly be the more memorable, whether or not it truly qualifies as art.
Let me be right up front here. 1) Yes, I chose, of my own free will and volition, to enter via the passageway that is blocked by two butt naked people facing each other not much more than a foot apart. 2) Yes, I was quite pleased that both of the "performers" when I was there were women. And 3) Yes, I turned to face the more buxom of the two as I squeezed between. Yeah, so? What of it?
I fully intend to return on a less crowded day - not to slide between naked women again....OK, maybe....but also and especially to participate in the ongoing performance in which museum goers can sit across a table from Ms. Abramovic and engage in a staring contest for a period of time of their choosing. She will be there every day, all day, each day the museum is open through the close of her exhibit on May 31; some 700 hours of staring in all. Bet you can't even look at the Derby pp's for that long. The odds are 6-5 I can last a half hour, wanna bet?