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Monday, May 07, 2007

Wasted Weekend, Opportunities for Rangers, Pletcher

- OK, one more post and then I'll leave you alone about hockey. It was about 9:30 on Friday night that Marty Straka put the Rangers ahead 1-0 with three mintues left in Game 5, and the Blueshirts were poised to take firm control of the series. But less than 48 hours later, after some poor decisions by coaches and players, a couple of phantom penalty calls, and no less than three shots glancing off Rangers sticks or bodies and fortuitously, for Buffalo, redirecting behind Henryk Lundqvist, the Rangers are done - just like that - in a series they could have, and should have won. There are many good things to take out of a season which looked lost just a couple of months ago, especially the growth of some highly promising young players both on the team and in the system. The future appears to be bright.

But on the other hand, how many times is a team fortunate enough to go into the playoffs on a roll, in relative good health, with excellent chemistry and a hot goaltender? To me, it was a wasted opportunity, and I'm taking it very hard.

Similarly, we hear about how Todd Pletcher is only 39, and how he'll have many more chances to win a Derby. But how do we know what the future will bring? He had five horses this year....let's say that three were serious contenders. They were all healthy and sound (we think), and he was able to prep each one of them exactly the way he wanted to, playing by his own rules, and with no serious setbacks that we know of. Yet he came up short - way short. He can say "I'll be back," but you could sense the deep disappointment in his post-race comments. Because despite the fact that he may have numbers on his side due to the sheer size of his operation, who can say, really, if or when he'll ever be in a similar position, and have the opportunity to come into the race with just one sound contender, no less three or five? Ask Nick Zito if there are any guarantees? When's the next time Bob Baffert will be back?

Of course, those guys have won Derbies, and Pletcher hasn't, which makes it all the more frustrating for him. I'm sure he'll forge on and win a ridiculous number of stakes again this year and perhaps another Eclipse. But talk of his failures on Derby Day will continue to shadow him, and grow more insistent with each passing year. Maybe if he stops trying so hard, something will fall into his lap. Of course, this year, his biggest mistake may very well have been that he ran his Derby horse in the Oaks.

- Jennie Rees points out in the Louisville Courier-Journal that the top five finishers in the Derby all had their final workouts over the dirt track at Churchill as opposed to the synthetic one at Keeneland. But I think it will be far more significant going forward to note that the top two finishers both had their final prep races on Polytrack.

- I saw a quote from Hard Spun's trainer Larry Jones noting that while Calvin Borel may have had a home-track advantage at Churchill, now they'll be going to Pimlico, which is "Pino land." But with most of the Derby horses not coming, perhaps Jones may want to consider a trip to "Prado land" or "Gomez land" instead. This horse needs to be rated and not expend all his energy early, and he's shown he can do so in the past.

And if there was a rail bias that benefited Street Sense in the Derby, didn't it help the second place finisher as well?


Anonymous said...

Alan - I know there is no consoling you regarding the Rangers. It goes beyond a "bad beat." Here's my Derby trail tale of woe, though it doesn't compare to the Broadway Blues.

I was actually in attendance at the Tampa Bay Derby and went with AGS and not SS. I then backed SS at Keeneland and we know how that turned out. And naturally, I jumped off him for Hard Spun and somehow, amongst a myriad tickets, did not have the exacta.

I guess the only one who had a worse week than us last week was NYRA. And yet there's Charlie Haywood, one of the Thoroughbred Times' Top 20. Go figure.

Alan Mann said...

L.S. - Sorry, I feel your pain. At least you got a little excitement for your money in the race!

Patrick J Patten said...

Any word on the Beyers yet, nothing on the DRF form blog

Brett said...

The form has Derby TV ratings up 12%. That is a very good sign especially in light of the Barbaro tragedy last year. I can't see the ratings going very far down for the Preakness in two weeks.