It is here, the First Saturday in May, arriving as late as it possibly could. Here are some thoughts to take us into the race.
So, great moments in small town living. I go to the local Bi-Lo, known as the Ghetto Bi-lo, because it is in Pendleton, and therefore small, old, crowded and raggedy. Clemson Bi-Lo is newer, bigger, and fancier, BUT! Ghetto Bi-Lo has WAY better produce and meats, and that store is CLEAN. I heart my Ghetto Bi-Lo. So anyway, I was there, in the produce section, and alas, there was no mint to be found. A produce guy was there, stocking green beans.
ME: Any chance you have any mint in the back?
PRODUCE GUY: Unfortunately, no. You a racing fan?
PRODUCE GUY: I hear the big horse, Uncle Mo, scratched this morning.
I proceeded to tell Produce Guy every down dirty rumor I’d heard, which may or may not be true. Rumors like – Mike Repole wanted to secure an extra three box seats, so he entered the horse, knowing he’d scratch. Rumors like – they wanted to shrink the field to benefit their other horse, Stay Thirsty. And I also told Produce Guy some cold hard facts, like, The horse had been looking like crap all week. His coat looked bad, his appetite wasn’t good, and while he was mechanically sound, he was clearly off. The Todd SAID this. OUT LOUD. While saying that they wanted to give Mo “every chance” to improve. Look, The Todd, you know and I know that if your horse looks like crap on Tuesday, has been looking crappy for some time, has been battling an internal infection – he’s not going to be up for one of the toughest races in the world come Saturday. SO WHY ENTER? Unless Mike Repole wants those extra box seats.
Meanwhile, Sway Away, who would have been in the race if Mo hadn’t taken up a spot only to abandon it a day and a half later, is on the outside looking in. His owners, who are in their 70’s, will probably never get the experience of having a horse in the Derby. But don’t worry, The Todd, Mike Repole, you just do whatever you want. (As a side note, I really like Sway Away, who runs with a fascinating, head-way-up posture. He’s a quick horse, but likely 1 1/4 miles isn’t his game. MUCH LIKE UNCLE MO. AND HALF THE FIELD. ANYWAY. I’LL TRY TO STOP SHOUTING.)
So! Our beloved Archarcharch, of Adorable Arkansasness Fame, drew the one hole. Heavy sigh, kids. Heavy sigh. Ferdinand won the Derby in 1986 from the one hole, but he had the immortal Bill Shoemaker in the saddle and the advantage of a come-from-behind running style. Does Jon Court want to drop to last to avoid the crush? Probably not, but he also might not have much choice about it.
You’ll have to trust me on this one, but as the post positions were drawn, I kept thinking, my horses are going to be in 7 and 8. As it turned out, Dialed In and Pants on Fire wound up in those spots. I didn’t mention Dialed In previously, as I have no special feeling for him, really, but I do respect the holy heck out of this horse. He’s all class, and Nick Zito thinks the world of him. While a Dialed In win would not be especially sentimental for me, it would definitely be satisfying.
In other news, Johnny Velasquez, The Todd’s top jock who was set to ride Uncle Mo, wound up getting a new mount in Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is a nice looking chestnut trained by Toby’s Corner’s trainer, Graham Motion. AK has heretofore been a grass or synthetic horse, so we’ll have to see how he likes the Churchill dirt.
Interestingly, Animal Kingdom’s jockey, newly minted wife-beater (allegedly) Robbie Albarado, was thrown from a horse on Wednesday and then the horse stepped on his face, breaking his nose and orbital bones. Sucks to get beaten up, doesn’t it, alleged wife-beater Robbie Albarado? So, Robbie is out, and Johnny is in. I am always looking for the karma angle, and I have wonder if this last minute switch from Robbie to Johnny isn’t a weird, cosmic shift to make an Animal Kingdom win more palatable.
Also interesting – Plum Pretty won the Oaks on Friday. She came out of New Mexico, like Mine That Bird. Some think the training/racing at elevation is what allowed Mine That Bird to decimate the 2009 Kentucky Derby. He was, of course, ridden by the great Churchill Downs jockey, Calvin Borel, who has won 3 out of the last 4 Derbies. This year, Calvin is on Twice the Appeal. And where has Twice the Appeal been training and racing? New Mexico.
In other news, this morning I procured two packages of mint, so I’m all set. Hope you all enjoy the Derby, and most importantly, that every jockey and every horse gets around safe and sound.