Another Derby, another shot at the Triple Crown for a three year old horse and its connections. This year was as full of ups and downs as any other year, although the favorite, Eskendreya, bowed out a week early due to injury, and my favorites had been dropping out all season. One of them, Tiz Chrome, was injured so badly, he had to be euthanized. Let’s just say that I felt personally much less at stake than usual. Which meant I could relax and enjoy it more.
I did a little betting on Oaks Day, the day before the Derby. My pick in the fifth, War Tigress, came in a dead heat for third. I bet Rachel Alexandra across the board in the sixth race, and boxed an exacta with her and Unrivaled Belle. Belle was truly unrivaled that day, beating Rachel just by a head—but still beating her. I cashed my bets, though, so, other than feeling sorry for the horse, I was fine. My choice in the ninth, Cool Coal Man, was a disappointing sixth. Setsuko, the horse in the tenth I felt should have been in the Derby and may be a Belmont contender, didn’t fire until too late in the race and only hit fourth. He was picking off horses pretty well near the end, which could bode well for Belmont, should his connections take him off the turf and put him back on dirt. But it made me more skeptical. In the Oaks itself, I had Blink Luck across the board, choosing Evening Jewel over Allalea for the place spot and Tidal Pool over Crisp for the show spot. Those were good choices—Blind Luck, Evening Jewel, and Tidal Pool granted me that one, two, three, while Allalea was fifth and Crisp seventh.
Not a bad betting start for the weekend.
The weather, however, was uncooperative on Saturday. It was awful. I felt bad for the people who spent so much time and care on picking the right hat, then had to wear plastic, ponchos, or tarps over themselves. And let’s hope no one had satin heels, or they were ruined.
My choices in the first race were Rock Hard, Stay Put, and Kettle River, each across the board, and as a boxed trifecta. No trifecta for me, as Rock Hard came in fourth, but Stay Put came in first and Kettle River came in third, so it wasn’t a bad start to the day, even with vile weather.
In the second race I had Zimmer across the board (hey, he’s sired by Empire Maker) and Spicer across the board. Originally, I considered adding Bold Victory into the mix, but he looked tired, so I skipped him. Zimmer won, and Spicer came in third, although I think the way My Piano Man split and angled out cost Spicer the show spot. No one else seemed to have a problem with it, so oh, well.
The third race was taken off the turf—I wouldn’t have wanted to walk on that grass, much less run on it. My two top choices, Beyond our Reach and Dyani, were scratched. My original long shot choice, Kathren’s Kitten, looked like a mess before the race to me, so I skipped her. I’d promised myself to put a small bet on Stormy Tess if she got in. She did, but pitched a fit in the gate, wore herself out, and came in last. I should have skipped this one and spent my money on a cocktail instead!
Wise Dan and Spooky’s Ready were my picks in the fifth. Spooky’s Ready was scratched, and no one else looked good to me here, so I stuck with Wise Dan across the board. I thought I was screwed at first, when he took the turn five wide, but damn if he didn’t pick ‘em all off and win! I’m not familiar with his pedigree—his sire is Wiseman’s Ferry, damn is Lisa Danielle who was sired by Wolf Power—but I’ll be looking at both this horse and his bloodlines more closely.
The Sixth Race was also moved off the turf. I’d considered Pickapocket, considered skipping the race, tossed a few bucks at Pickapocket to win and he ran a really smart race. It was a mile and a sixteenth, so by sitting chill and then making his move late, he got it down. He is six, he has experience, and it showed in the race.
The Eight Belles was when things got interesting. I stuck to my original choices: Hot Dixie Chick, Vis-à-vis, and Decelerator, across the board and as a boxed exacta. But when a horse named Buckleupbuttercup came out, I fell in love. Hard. It wouldn’t have mattered if she took off in the wrong direction, I’d have rooted for her. She’s one of those fillies who’s both beautiful and shows a sparkling personality. She also wiped the field with everyone, keeping a cool head, making a wide move and running them all down. This filly is on my watch list. Vis-à-vis was a solid second, with Hot Dixie Chick third. Decelerator had a good start, but, unfortunately, lived up to her name, decelerating throughout the race to finish second-to-last.
The Churchill Distaff Turf Mile stayed on the turf, which surprised me, although the rain lightened up for a brief time. I kept Tizaqueena across the board. I was trying to decide between Phola and Fantasia. On paper, it looked like Fantasia was a better choice, but Phola looked so darned good, I went with her. Tizaqueena never fired, but Phola ran a smart, steady race, and, even though she had to go wide for the last stretch, had saved enough and had enough in the tank to pick off Hot Cha Cha.
I’m a big fan of last year’s winner of the Humana Distaff, Informed Decision, so she was my first choice across the board. I also really liked Free Flying Soul, ridden by Mike Smith, and Warbling. I bet them each across the board, and a trifecta with Informed Decision, Free Flying Soul, and Warbling as one two three. Unfortunately, there was a lovely horse named Mona de Momma who took her time, took her time, and wore everyone else in the race down. It was a lovely win, even if it wasn’t my ticket. My three came in as third, fourth, and fifth, but at least I made a few pennies on Informed Decision! I should have looked at Mona more closely once I saw she was sired by Speightstown.
Originally, I had Munnings and Musket Man as my choices here, with Hull, Kensei, and Cool Coal Man as additional choices. CCM ran yesterday, so he was out of it. I nearly skipped the race in favor of a mint julep, but at the last minute, tossed a few show bucks at Musket Man. He came into the show spot, but the others in my original pool just didn’t want to be there, so I’m glad I skipped ‘em. The race was won by Attaboy Roy, ridden by Calvin Borel, making his way up the rail, in preparation for The Big Race.
They kept the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the turf, in spite of the rain picking up. I’d originally liked Battle of Hastings, Loup Breton, and Court Vision. I dumped Battle of Hastings, but kept the other two across the board. My original long shot, Pop Tarrt, looked like he didn’t want to be there, so I passed. The winner of the race was General Quarters; a four year old who’d entered last year’s Derby and not won. He’s THE one-horse stable of retired school principal Thomas McCarthy, who is his own, his trainer, his groom, and his biggest fan. It was great to see this horse win a race. Court Vision took second, and Loup Breton managed third, in spite of a lousy break.
I had to start from scratch for the Derby, since my favorites were long gone. The sloppier it got, the more convinced I was to put Super Saver in the mix. Also, as the day wore on, I became more and more enamored of the filly, Devil May Care. Devil’s sire is Malibu Moon and her grandsire is AP Indy, both of which ratchet her up in my book. Her tendency to do exactly as she pleases and pitch a fit in the gate worried me a bit, but she seemed pretty together and rather regal on the day. Paddy O’Prado’s just gorgeous and talented, too. I figured I shouldn’t discount Lookin at Lucky, although, to me, the number one post position was a recipe to be squished. I also really liked Ice Box—who no one paid much attention to, but his grandsire is AP Indy—and Jackson Bend, the smallest horse in the race, ridden by Mike Smith, one of my favorite jockeys. I also thought Mission Impazable was gorgeous, but the unbridled sire worried me. His progeny are fast, but they take risks and tend to break down. However, Pletcher’s the trainer, and Pletcher’s pretty thorough. Of the really long shots, I figured what the hey, consider Dean’s Kitten.
BackTalk was sired by Smarty Jones, so I felt disloyal for tossing him. But the fact that American Lion’s beaten him by fourteen lengths, and American Lion didn’t make my list of contenders was a factor. I liked the look of Conveyance, but think he needs to mentally mature a bit before I can take him seriously enough to put money on him. I considered Discreetly Mine, but I seriously doubt this Derby can be wired, so tossed him out. I considered Homeboykris because his grandfather’s one of my all time faves, Fusaichi Pegasus. But FP’s daughters tend to do better than his sons, and, wow, he already has grand-colts? It’s really been that long? I figured I’d wait and see.
So I went with four across the board: Lookin at Lucky, Devil May Care, Paddy O’Prado, and Super Saver. I slotted Ice Box and Jackson Bend in for place, and Mission Impazable and Dean’s Kitten for show.
I knew Super Saver had it in the post parade. He swaggered out during “My Old Kentucky Home” and nodded to the spectators, absolutely convinced that the applause was ALL for him.
And, within the next few minutes, it was.
Lookin at Lucky was squished, and, as far as I could tell, was never a factor. Devil May Care kept her head, and, in spite of a bit of jostling, held steady in mid-pack. I hoped she’d show a shot of speed near the end and beat them all, but she was shuffled back during the homestretch. Super Saver never flinched, never pinched, never fought, and never flailed. He and Borel worked in beautiful synchronicity. Every time Calvin asked him to move, be it to the rail or away around another horse, Super Saver did so without a fuss. And he picked everyone off.
It was a lovely win, not all that dramatic, but a smart, well-run, tactical race by both horse and jockey. Calvin was thrilled, and Super Saver was all, “See? Told ya! Yeah, it’s all MINE!”
Ice Box made a terrific late move and hit the place spot, and Paddy O’Prado did a wonderful job hanging on the show spot. I hope both are in the Preakness, although I think Ice Box’s style is a bit better suited to the Belmont. Lookin at Lucky managed sixth, which was pretty damn good for his terrible trip. Mission Impazable was ninth, with a worn out Devil May Care tenth (she’s better than that), Jackson Bend twelfth, and Dean’s Kitten fourteenth.
Most people don’t pay too much attention to the two races post-Derby, which is why I like them. Flying Pegasus was scratched in the twelfth, so I stayed with EZ’s Gentleman and Thunder Jack, dumping Devastator as my long shot. EZ’s Gentleman won after a nice stalk all the way ‘round. Thunder Jack, unfortunately, ran into trouble, was eased, and walked off the track. I hope it’s not life threatening.
Originally, I looked at five horses for the thirteenth race. I whittled it down to two: Moe Man & Gallantos. They came in the other way round, but that’s okay.
Preakness is in two weeks. Calvin Borel believes Super Saver is his Triple Crown horse. The field’s expected to be large, and I have a feeling they’ll try to crowd him off the rail to make sure that doesn’t happen. While I’m not confident Super Saver can win the Triple Crown, I’m hopeful, especially if he shows as much poise moving forward as he did on Derby day.
Whatever happens, it should be a fascinating race.
By Devon Ellington for FemmeFan