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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Derby Top Ten

- Here's the LATG Derby Top Ten of horses and people who I think will be in the headlines on or around Kentucky Derby Day.

1) Pyro drew the seven post in a 12 horse Blue Grass field, was installed as the even money morning line favorite, and I wouldn't mind seeing him run something like third in a race as slow-paced as last year. A moderate Beyer would validate the notion that Pyro isn't fast enough amongst all of those who think that Pyro isn't fast enough, and who knows then what price one will be able to get on him in the Derby. Third choice in the 20 horse field could be 6 or 7-1. (And he could conceivably be third choice, behind Big Brown and Colonel John, even if the race was today.) The son of Pulpit worked a half in 50 3/5 over the Poly on Monday. The dark bay colt was clocked in :23 4/5 for his final quarter-mile under regular exercise rider Dominic Terry. [BRIS] Superstar assistant Scott Blasi said: "It was smooth, a typical Asmussen blowout," which I suppose could mean different things to different people.

2) All eyes are on Colonel John as he steps onto the Churchill natural dirt for the very first time. He tests the footing gingerly, takes a sniff, lies down and rolls around, gets up, and gives a hooves up to the crowd, which cheers wildly as he prances triumphantly around the track. He likes it. And why wouldn't a son of Tiznow out of a Turkoman mare?

3) Senator Hillary Clinton comes to Louisville, and is spotted on the backstretch combing through bales of hay in such of superdelegates. On Derby day, she is forced to acknowledge that she "misspoke" after TVG shows a tape of her being escorted into the clubhouse from her limo. She had earlier claimed that she had to fight her way through the infield mob. "I was told we had to arrive a certain way," she explained. "We had to have helmets on because of the threat of big hats."

4) The Federal Aviation Agency grounds the nation's entire commercial air fleet, leading to Derby chaos, and lines of cars heading to Louisville that stretch all the way to Memphis, Cincinnati, and St Louis. Several horses attempting to van over from Keeneland are forced to get out and walk. Pyro stops at a roadside stand for a hot dog, poses for photos, and chats amiably with stranded motorists.

5) Having tired of all the bad press and fearing that they'll shoulder the blame if he doesn't make the Derby, Big Brown's feet hire a public relations team. They promptly issue a call for new programs to educate the public on quarter cracks, and complain that their clients received no credit for carrying the horse to his three spectacular wins thus far. "Our clients have provided the footing for the most spectacular preps of the season," they point out in a press release. Big Brown's fetlocks decline to comment in response.

6) Will he or won't he run? That will be the big question surrounding War Pass; and even though it's difficult for me personally to imagine that anyone really thinks he could win, his presence, or lack thereof, completely changes the complexion of the race given his early speed and the imposing presence (perhaps) of Big Brown and his extremely sensitive (both physically and emotionally) feet. The bravado of his assertion that "we didn't win, but it's just like a win" aside, Nick Zito did not sound like a man who was 100% certain that the Derby is the right race for his juvenile champ:

"It is certainly one day at a time with this horse....We know we've got a special horse. If he has a good month, we'll see if we can make the Derby." [AP]
However, the colt's owner Robert LaPenta doesn't seem to be getting it. "He got a lot out of this race....This was a great conditioning race." For the Met Mile perhaps.

7) William K Warren, the owner of Denis of Cork, declares bankruptcy after his Warren American Oil Company suffers huge losses due to his ill-fated attempt to time the top of the crude oil market.

8) The second place finish by Gayego in the San Felipe is looking a bit better after the game Santa Anita Derby effort by Bob Black Jack; he defeated that one by a length in the former. The son of Gilded Time is another California horse who has to answer the dirt question (not to mention gain enough graded stakes earnings), but he'll get the chance to do both when he starts as the probable favorite in an overflowing Arkansas Derby.

9) One might tend to downgrade Big Truck given the poor showing by Atoned in the Illinois Derby; he defeated that one by a spare neck in the Tampa Bay Derby despite saving much ground in relation to that rival on the turns. However, I'll propose instead that the closers had no shot whatsoever in the Hawthorne race given an apparent speed/rail bias, and a front-runner who accelerated to the finish after setting a slow early pace. I also recall when Barclay Tagg declared last year that this was his most talented three-year old; and that at a time when Tale of Ekati seemed the obvious choice for that honor. Big Truck had excuses in his two poor efforts, has improved steadily in 2008, and could have gained conditioning from running on the quirky Tampa Bay surface; note his half mile bullet work at GP on March 29. He's been installed at 6-1 in the morning line for the Blue Grass.

10) Senator John McCain cancels his Derby plans, explaining that he needs the time to learn the difference between Sunni and Shiite.


Anonymous said...

Alan - Here's something I wonder about and maybe you and your readers can talk about it if you get a chance before Derby Day:

Is the 3-races-in-5-weeks Triple Crown schedule too much on young horses?

Will the tradition of running the races in such a compact time frame ever be changed?

Given what we know about modern-day conditioning techniques, and the stories/backstretch rumors about about the abusiveness and win-at-all-costs attidudes of trainers like D. Wayne Lukas, would it be in the sport's best interest to space the races out a little? Maybe to help give champion horses a little lengthier racing career?

Or will we stick to the way it's always been done, breakdowns or weardowns come what may?

Sunny Jim

Anonymous said...

For what its worth two scribes have pointed to Kentucky Bear as being a horse to look at twice in the Bluegrass Stakes.

Lex Herald-Leader ''Kentucky Bear' bargain at 50-1' Apr 10

Balt Sun 'Color race green' Apr 10

Salute the Sarge, based upon his connections comments looks to be skipping the Derby and maybe pointing (after the Coolmore Stakes) to the Preakness.

Jen R said...

I would agree that the spacing of the Triple Crown races is out of step with modern training practices.

It's much less clear to me that the spacing of the Triple Crown races is what needs to change in that equation. After all, in these days in which top horses often only race 4-6 times a year, we're not seeing longer careers to go along with that spacing. Modern conditioning techniques don't appear to have done the horses or the sport any favors.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another "Derby Top Ten" to lighten the load. Your humor is always appreciated as a way to deal with the absurdities we face when picking up the paper or listening to the news. However, Alan, your # 10 really should be the 2 losers running for the Democrat nomination- McCain only needs to stay back in the barn and he will win the Eclipse! /S/Green Mtn Punter

carsandhorses said...

I had to buy 3 cars in 4 weeks once and if not for neil's finance plaza inc I would have never been able to pull it off. They were great. So yes it would be next to impossible to win 3 big races in 5 weeks