Talk about some drama! We've had plenty of it the last few days in the thoroughbred racing community, with Mine That Bird's owner plotting with Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile's owner to deny Rachel Alexandra the chance at proving herself against the boys by filling the entry box with other nominated colts. The scandal even led to heiress MaryLou Whitney, who owns the sire of Mine That Bird, Birdstone. As soon as the media ran with the alleged quotes, Allen and Zayat were criticized on all fronts leading to a major retreat, while Whitney claimed she never spoke of any such coup - which has since held true.
Now on to the race itself. In many ways I feel this year's second jewel of the prized Triple Crown is a "do over" of The Derby, with Rachel getting her crack against the colts and a smaller field which should eliminate SOME of the bad starts and rough trips many of these same horses experienced in The Derby. After all, last year only one colt beaten in The Derby - Gayego - dared challenge Big Brown on two weeks rest and he finished next to last! This year we have not only the top four finishers in Louisville, but also the beaten favorite and two other also-rans.
Along those lines, I am going to give Friesan Fire a chance to redeem his "beaten chalk" status. I backed off him leading up to The Derby due to an expected unfavorable pace scenario, yet he was totally wiped out leaving the gate and never ran a lick. I am hoping for a Louis Quatorze-esque rebound -- that Nick Zito charge who ran an awful 16th in the 1996 Kentucky Derby only to win the Preakness Stakes in a stakes record tying performance! Larry Jones has brought his son of A.P. Indy to Pimlico Race Course just north of Baltimore to get plenty of action over this quirky oval with tight turns -- similar to that of Fair Grounds track in New Orleans, where Friesan swept the spring three year-old series in dominant fashion. For these reasons, I'll be thrilled with 8-1 or so odds come Saturday. If you're looking for more of a long-shot, I see no reason to change my stance on the honest Musket Man, although General Quarters will present a much bigger price if you can dismiss his troubled trip while splitting the field. I would expect Pioneerof the Nile to run another good stalking race, but now that his owner is the "bad guy", I'll be hoping for a flop.
Does this mean I'm betting against my girl, Rachel? Not necessarily... I'll certainly include her in multiple tickets. I just think the public will bet the farm on the filly, especially when the Pimlico odds-maker has set Rachel as the 8-5 morning line favorite. And the extra ground from the 13 post position is a lot to ask from a horse who was expected to get a month break, but now will be facing a hungry crop of sophomores after a 20+ length smashing win. Let's hope that Kentucky Oaks effort was as easy on her as it appeared or she may finally come up a short horse. For those of you playing the race, good luck sirs! It should be exciting regardless of the outcome.