Yesterday we had, as is almost always the case, another interesting Kentucky Derby.
The winner, Orb, has brought an almost giddy like glee to the sport. It's been said in racing 'when you lose, shake the winner's hand, say congratulations and mean it'. This year everyone means it.
Orb is not a factory stable horse, or a horse rushed to just race in the Derby. The storied connections have said many times, if the horse tells them he belongs they will race, if not, they won't.
The trainer, long known for pointing horses to big races only if they're ready, and carrying a deep respect for the colts and fillies entrusted to him, is well respected and a marvelous horseman.
The horse; what about the horse. He's pure class. A beautiful looking animal with readily apparent soundness who clearly appears to like his job: to do what he was bred to do. He's not a flashy speed type who rolls and tries to hold on. He magnificently has poise and can seemingly do whatever you want him to do. He's a 10 furlong horse, in a game which is breeding fewer and fewer of them of any quality.
I've been around racing for a long time. People were happy for Street Sense and several others. People respect a Derby winner no matter whom it is, because everyone knows how hard a feat it is to accomplish. This year it feels different. Maybe it's because of the recent headlines, with positive tests, trainers under security, raceday drugs, you name it. Maybe we all love racing so much, that when a shining star who has done things the right way wins a race like this we can feel pride and say "take that:.
Whatever the reason, everyone is happy for Shug, everyone is happy for the Janney's and Phipps', and everyone is happy for Orb. Everyone is happy.
The Pace is the story of many Derby's and it was in this years. Palice Malice first time blinkered, as well as a couple of other colts, raced like scared cats into the first turn, were unable to settle and scorched the opening half. This set it up for the closers.
How about Oxbow? Post one (technically not because stall one was left open), a strong move into a blistering pace and a good gallop out and finish. When someone said they liked Oxbow before the Derby they got looked at funny. That horse raced a fantastic race.
The "what the hell is he doing here horse", Giant Finish, was not even saddled by his trainer, who supposedly missed a connecting flight, but who also didn't look to want to be there either, if you believe the chatter on NBC. He came 10th, and raced really well.
Who did that 'joke entry' of Giant Finish beat? Only Verrazano, Overanalyze and Palace Malice, three fifths of team Pletcher. There was a lot of talk before the race that many bettors believe the numbers, and don't want a Pletcher horse on a ticket in a Derby. Derby 139 did nothing to change that feeling and it probably solidified it. Other than a non-threatening third, his horses raced like they usually do. They seem to leave the big Beyers in the preps, in a race where you have to rapidly improve a previous top.
It'smyluckyday didn't look comfortable at all. My speed choice and bet, was struggling the whole way around. When I saw the pan shot at the half, with the rider tapping his shoulder, you knew his race was over.
Java's War did what everyone thought he would: Walk out of the gate. He would probably be an amazing horse in the 1920's when they did those standing start things.
Normandy Invasion, the "skinny looking horse" after the Wood, looked fantastic in the post parade and raced it. Maybe it was a premature move by the jock, maybe it's the breeding, or maybe he just wasn't fast enough, but he raced really well.
Orb was the horse who was bred to get the distance. He was the one who was working like a champion, was happy, was fast, had a resume, and great connections. He was not the chalk until the last jump.
Speaking of bets, I did something differently this year with the slop. I played for speed on a set of tickets (It'smyluckyday with Goldencents, and Oxbow wheeled in tris and supers) and a closer set, (with Orb, Mylute, Java's War and Golden Soul). The latter was obviously the best ticket, and I feel good about my flat bet on Golden Soul. I gave myself a chance to take home the track and making a score with him on top. When I saw how relaxed and sound he looked in the post parade, I increased the play. But unfortunately for me, he came second.
The Derby odds board is insane, and frankly, so are all the other races. There's always been a favorite longshot bias in horse racing, but on Derby day it's exacerbated to the extreme. The longest Derby shot was under 50-1, when he should've been 150-1. Some horses on the undercard who were likely 40-1 shots, were half that. It's an amazing day.
TVG could not show Churchill Downs races yesterday to their online customers. This is shameful and the industry (i.e. Churchill Downs) has to ensure that others - even their competition - who serve this sport via television and online can give their customers unfettered access to video 365 days a year, not 364. Customers are not there to be stepped on, inconvenienced or used, just because you own one day a year that will garner lots of handle.
Derby ratings were reported up in overnights, proving once again that American viewers love big events, no matter what they are. How can we turn some of that audience over to watch a Breeders Cup? I don't know, but the Derby is the Derby, and the Breeders Cup is the Breeders Cup.
Each year someone says we're going to see a Triple Crown winner. Each year I chuckle and bet against it. This year, count me in and make fun of me all you like. This sound, gorgeous, versatile, well-trained animal, has a good a shot, in my opinion, to take all three legs that I have ever seen. Go Orb.
Enjoy your Sunday everyone.
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