This is the Left at the Gate Kentucky Derby Top Ten of horses, people, and things which I think will be in the news on or around the first Saturday in May.
1) Orb may have run two seconds slower in winning the Florida Derby than did Dreaming of Julia four races prior. But Orb was sitting off a pace which was considerably slower than the filly race; 1:12.89 to the three quarters vs 1:11.16. Orb was still a couple lengths off the lead at that point and was about to launch a four wide move to the lead and run the final 3/8ths in 37.71 seconds; last eighth in 12.89. He would have had to run closing splits in speeds we don't see in dirt races to match Dreaming of Julia's time; his final time was compromised by the pace. Since Beyer doesn't factor pace into the figures, you can probably upgrade his 97 by a few points.
2) Revolutionary showed a lot of really good traits in winning the Louisiana Derby. He shipped to and raced over a new track in different surroundings, rated kindly, accelerated powerfully around the big field while five wide on the turn, and then showed grit and courage in coming back on the inside to nip My Lute, getting the last eighth in a sharp 12.52 seconds. Since Beyer doesn't factor ground loss into the figures, you can probably upgrade his 93 by a few points. Revolutionary is by War Pass out of the Alabama winner Runup the Colors, and has some unusual inbreeding to Hoist the Flag, 4x3; and this is the distaff family of the full brother/sister multiple G1 winners Mineshaft and Tomisues Delight (same second dam). I actually might have rated him #1 but I don't want to be perceived as being a tool of the Toddster.
3) An extremist anti-medication group calling itself the Legion Against Stupid Idiotic Chemical(S) (LASICS) and armed with hypodermic needles, hijacks the ABRV and holds the America's Best Racing ambassadors hostage, threatening to inject them with a milkshake concoction should their demands not be met. But they abandon their scheme and flee when two of the hostages, after being administered the drugs, are able to escape by running a half mile in 44 1/5 seconds (in company).
4) Vyjack has been working extremely well since his impressive change-of-tactics Gotham win in which he came from far off the pace. He earned particular accolades for his five furlong work on March 22; and most recently worked on Saturday. He's gonna be second choice to Verrazano in the Wood, and I'd be tempted to bet him if the price is right, though I actually want Verrazano to win so he'll be a big favorite in the Derby.
5) North Korea maintains its recent threatening posture, and turns its wrath towards the great American tradition of the Derby. A government spokesman says that long-range missiles would "pulverize Churchill Downs until it looks like Aqueduct." Additionally, he calls Todd Pletcher "a nerd with bad taste in suits," refers to Wayne Lukas as a "shriveling shell of his former imperial self," and derides favored Verrazano as "an exploited tool of inhumane capitalist pigs (who is unlikely to overcome his pedigree and running style to be able to get the classic ten furlong distance)."
6) CyberBunker continues to disrupt the internet, and ADW wagering sites go haywire on Derby Day. Twin Spires bettors attempting to watch the races get episodes from the third season of the Andy Griffith show instead; NYRA Rewards customers are redirected to replays of NYRA board meetings; and TVG horseplayers thinking they are wagering on the Derby are instead making campaign contributions to disgraced former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, now the likely GOP candidate for a congressional seat (and that I didn't make up).
7) Hear the Ghost is prepping for the Santa Anita Derby, where he'll be second choice in the morning line to Flashback who he defeated in the San Pedro, according to oddsmaker Jon White.
"The reaction to Flashback's San Felipe performance, coupled with the belief expressed by many people that Hear the Ghost won partly because he was able to benefit from a pace meltdown, swayed me to think there is a strong probability Flashback is going to be the favorite when they exit the starting gate for the Santa Anita Derby. [Brisnet]Indeed, as I discussed in this post after that race, Hear the Ghost didn't exactly fly past the tired pacesetters. But it's not like he was lollygagging far back of the fast pace while the front-runners did all the work. He was only 2 1/2 back at the first call, 4 1/2 at the second, and ran that first half in 46 3/5 just to keep up. He's not a deep closer, but more of a stalker, and I think one might argue that the lightning fast pace was, in fact, actually detrimental to his running style.
8) The Derby points system is the subject of conversation after Dreaming of Julia wins the Oaks so decisively that she was hosed, dressed, and back in her stall reading her congratulatory texts before the second place finisher crossed the wire. The fans wonder why the points system excluded Pletcher's filly while allowing a second-rate colt to qualify by winning a race on the Tapeta track in Dubai.
9) Palace Malice is pretty much screwed points-wise after being totally screwed in the stretch of the Louisiana Derby. I liked him going into the race, and he looked to be moving quite comfortably and handily as he ventured up on the inside around the turn. As impressive as the winner was, Palace Malice was so completely and hopelessly boxed, that I can't conclude from this race that he's not actually the better horse. Interviewed on NBC immediately after the race, the Toddster seemed as frustrated with that colt's plight as he was happy about Revolutionary, and said something about maybe running him in the Blue Grass. Which would be a pretty desperate way to get his colt to the Derby.
10) With a leadership vacuum at NYRA after Ellen McClain departs and a new CEO still not in place, Frank Stronach attempts a brazen hostile takeover, assembling an invasion squad made up of Austrian mercenaries, retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ms. Racing Queen, members of LASICS (now, having learned their lesson, armed with semi-automatic machine guns), and Gilbert Gottfried. But Stronach, forgetting that racing has moved to Belmont, sends his force to Aqueduct instead where they are quickly overwhelmed by Genting's security team, equipped with a fleet of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, several B-2 bombers, and deadly blackjack dealers armed with nuclear-tipped chips.
- From the archives: Derby Top Ten, March 7, 2007