This is the Left at the Gate Derby Top Ten of horses, people, and things I think will be in the headlines on or around Derby Day.
1) Orb worked five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 the other day, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 under regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson.
Working in company with Puzzling, a five-year-old mare ridden by Octavio Vergara, Orb ran the last quarter of a mile in :23 4/5. [Brisnet]Shug's colt has won four in a row, and though he stalled at 97 on the Beyer scale in the Florida Derby, my figs have him moving forward, a more accurate representation I believe given the slow early pace of that race. No doubt that the trainer has a lot to do with me liking this horse, given his usual practice of allowing his horses to develop gradually over time; he's only had six Derby starters as you may know. When I hear this guy saying things like: "I've never had a horse show so much improvement over this short period of time at this time of the year," it makes me think he's going to run the best race of his short career thus far on Kentucky Derby day.
2) Pick-a-Pletcher, any Pletcher. OK, how about Revolutionary? On performance and pedigree, anyway, figures to be the Toddster horse most likely to be running on late, doncha think? This colt also worked on Sunday.
Working on the inside of recent first-level allowance winner Red Rifle, Revolutionary breezed four furlongs in :48 4/5 and recorded fractions of :12 3/5, :24 4/5 and :37 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 and six furlongs in 1:15 1/5. Their half-mile time tied for the 22nd fastest of 81 at the distance.Oh, Calvin Borel is riding? Isn't he still due to not win another Derby for like the next seven years or maybe ever?
Calvin Borel was in the irons for the work, and will be aboard Revolutionary on the first Saturday in May. [Brisnet]
3) The search for the Higgs boson particle leads scientists to an unexpected place - the barn of Vyjack's trainer Rudy Rodriguez, where another possible version of the particle is discovered in unusually high concentrations. Astounded physicists hail the first discovery outside of a lab environment as a miracle. But Rodriguez is cited by regulators for being over the allowable limit of God particles. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission summons the Almighty to a hearing to consider His license to practice in the state.
4) The Wood Memorial victory by Verrazano seems to have elicited widely different reactions. Some say he simply ran to slow to be taken seriously as a Derby winner; and that he had a perfect trip stalking a slow pace, yet couldn't dominate in the stretch. Others say that the fact that he was able to sit behind that lethargic pace shows progress as a racehorse, and that he passed a critical test in repelling a challenge from a quality opponent in Vyjack. Put me squarely in the latter category. Still, have my doubts about his ability at the Derby distance, but I think he very well may not be favored; and, I dunno, guess there's a price at which I'd take a shot.
5) Derby attendance hits an all-time low as thousands of fans spend the big day circling the skies overhead due to sequestration cuts of air traffic controllers. Amongst the delayed is NBC's broadcast staff, forcing the network to desperately dispatch the team from the struggling Today show to host the telecast. This leads viewers to bail in droves to other networks for tennis, movies, hunting shows, hair removal infomercials, or anything whatsoever that doesn't include Al Roker. Ann Curry gets a good laugh out of it all.
6) Weighing in on the urgent issue of medication in the game, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre notes: "The only way to stop a bad guy with a syringe is a good guy with a syringe," and proposes that the Derby barns be patrolled by an appropriately-armed team of good guys led by the goody two-shoes trainers Christophe Clement and Graham Motion, as well as Joe Drape, Richard Dutrow (as part of his rehabilitation therapy),
7) Well, if I like Orb so much, feel like I should mention Itsmyluckyday as well. Sure, he was beaten pretty decisively by Orb in the Florida Derby. But he still ran well for second, has really blossomed as a three-year old, has nice tactical speed, and certainly rates some consideration should he draw well.
8) Not to be outdone by the zealous owner who financed 24 hour surveillance cameras at the Santa Anita Derby, Churchill Downs officials up the ante and assign undercover investigators to shadow the Derby trainers on the grounds. They err however by assigning one per horse and the cover is blown when Todd Pletcher notices a cloud of dust raised by the five (six?) shadowy figures following him around the backstrech. He invites them in for tea and they become fast friends, going on in future years to form a popular barbershop sextet (septet?).
9) I've said my piece on Palace Malice.....and if the Toddster is going to have 30% of the field, why shouldn't he have 30% of this top ten list?
10) As post time approaches, public sentiment switches drastically to Orb. But with polls showing that 90% of Americans support him to win, the U.S. Senate instead votes to back Revolutionary (at the suggestion of the Tea Party). They then switch to Verrazano when that one is endorsed by the NRA. Republicans then shift to Will Take Charge when they learn that President Obama likes Verrazano, which leads to a filibuster by Senator Rand Paul, who likes Java's War and mistakes the circling planes overhead for drones sent by the president to kill American citizens who gamble.
From the archives: Derby Top Ten, March 22, 2008