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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Morning After

It was a long way back to the rest of the field as they came home, and at least one bettor is already exulting on the turf course.

First of all, before getting back to the Derby, it appears as if jockey Rajiv Maragh is at least in one piece - X-rays were negative but Maragh was complaining of a headache and pain in his thighs. [NY Post] So I think it's OK for me to bemoan that first at Belmont, where I was on my way to crushing a $46 exacta with my first bet of the day when Al Basha ducked in and threw Maragh off. Between that and the Rangers losing agonizingly the night before, deep down I knew what my Derby fate was going to be. And now, after being humiliatingly wrong abut the race in front of all-time record site traffic, I also have to say that I'm not optimistic about the Rangers' chances of winning this afternoon and getting the series back to Buffalo for a deciding match. Hard to see how they can rebound after such a crushing loss, but there's always hope I suppose.

You can read all the winners' quotes in any number of papers around the country, and there's nothing surprising at all. “Let's just be honest,” said trainer Carl Nafzger....“(It's) the horse.” [Sign On San Diego] "Calvin has a clock in his head, especially after you look at the clock and see 22 and [9 over the first quarter mile]." [Baltimore Sun] "I felt like I was on a bomb." [Miami Herald] “He’s push-button...My horse has a tremendous turn of foot, you wouldn’t imagine.” "I really don't know how good he is." [Toronto Star] "What do you all think about that jinx now?" [NY Daily News]

Well, I could do without that last question, posed by Carl Nafzger. The "jinx" was a legitimate topic after all these years, and I think most of us knew it was more of a coincidence than the more solid and fundamental principles. Such as only two preps [like the winner], too long since the last prep [like second place finisher Hard Spun, off for six weeks], or no races at two [like third place finisher Curlin]. Of course the last two didn't win, so those "rules" still prevailed. But the trend for coming prep seasons I'm sure will be less, and certainly not more.

Enough, for now, about the winner. Here at Left at the Gate, we're generally all about losing, so we of course will want to see what happened to some of them over the next few days, in what I think was a pretty disappointing Derby overall.

Nobiz Like Shobiz got the positioning that he wanted to, and moved towards the leader, menacingly according to the race chart, around the turn. But he had nothing to offer and backed up to 10th.

“Barclay thinks maybe the noise and the crowd got to him,” [owner Elizabeth] Valando said. “All you can do is try.”

Tagg appeared far more disappointed. He had won this race in 2003 with Funny Cide and believed that Nobiz was every bit that horse’s equal.

“He didn’t handle the track,” said Tagg, sensing the colt was uncomfortable on a track that he was running a race on for the first time. “I thought he’d run better.” [NY Times]
Curlin, as I mentioned, was hurt by breaking from the two post.
"He shuffled back and checked himself a few times," jockey Robbie Albarado said. "He's never had that experience before, to be behind like that." [Associated Press]
Exactly why we don't bet horses making their 4th start in the Kentucky Derby. "He ran very good to finish third in his fourth lifetime start," Asmussen said. [Boston Globe]

And then there are the Pletcher horses, and I'm sure that will be, after speculation as to Street Sense's Crown chances, the most-discussed subject in the wake of the event. It seems rather shocking to me that all of them could run so poorly. The trainer conceded that "I don't think I could see any major excuses for my horses” and added that none of them will be considered for the Preakness, where he'll try King of the Roxy. He ran horses off layoffs ranging from four to eight weeks, and none of it worked. Bill Finley reports in the Times that the trainer seemed stunned that not one of his horses was in the hunt. And of Scat Daddy, by far the most disappointing of the five, he said “Edgar said he was spinning his wheels down the backside and he didn’t feel like he handled the track very well."

That's standard language for "he just didn't run a lick." I imagine that tenth furlong didn't help either.

- And, on this morning after, Street Sense actually jogged a mile.