May 3, 2008

Derby Wrap - Eight Belles Tribute

What a range of emotions... First, embarrassment over how poorly my picks ran (my longshots were last and next to last). Next, jubilation for another remarkable Florida Derby standout, similar to Barbaro just two short years ago. Finally, like with the events of Barbaro, disbelief concerning the fate of overachieving Eight Belles... a total deflation to end all The Derby euphoria. Yet another potential superstar not making another return to the track, this time tragically resulting in a loss of life. And the debate will continue about the grueling distance of The Derby, breeding patterns focusing on speed resulting in higher injuries and fatalities, and why Churchill Downs has still not committed to the synthetic surface (which statistically results in FEWER breakdowns on the track, though not a total reduction).

Regarding the race itself, it unfolded as well as Rick Dutrow (who received vindication after the race) and the Big Brown connections could have hoped for, with Gayego breaking poorly to his inside meaning he was able to secure a 4 wide path around the first turn, and more importantly, lay off the leaders in 5th/6th position through a moderate 47 second half mile. The pacesetters picked it up a bit over the next couple furlongs, but just enough to set it up for the "stalkers" rather than the true closers. This was evident as Big Brown, Eight Belles and Tale of Ekati were all within a few lengths of the lead for most of the way and the lone closer hitting the board was my previously discarded Denis of Cork. The superfecta payoff of $58,000 -- even with the chalk winning -- confirmed that this is the greatest handicapping test/betting race of the year, bar none! I tip my cap to those who keyed Big Brown with the 4th bettting choice, Eight Belles, and moderate longshots Denis of Cork and Tale of Ekati. Todd Pletcher continues to fire blanks when it comes to the big stage in racing.

My first thought after reflecting on this tragic Saturday is that I hope Eight Belles and Barbaro are rolling around in the hay together in horsey heaven. I would love to see a tall, strapping colt produced from such a mating in the 2012 Derby with a name worth a Derby winner... "Barbelles in May."

Well, the show goes on to historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD, although I am spent from a grueling spring of my own (partly due to chasing these equine stars around the Derby trail!!). Now that I have the blog going, I may update it occassionally for the remaining Crown races and Saratoga meet. So please check in from time to time.

Now for the recognition of, surprisingly, only four individuals who went with Big Brown; Jim in God's country (Ark), Pam and Mary from Dallas and the grand prize winner via tie-breaker, Patrick Werner from Memphis (in his first year of participation, no less!).

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