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By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
This week, I embark on the dusty trail to the Kentucky Derby (G1). It is exciting, invigorating and grueling all at the same time and I love it. It is fantastic to see the majority of America’s top three-year-olds up close and personal as they prepare for their run for the roses and possible Triple Crown immortality.
Bouncing from track to track the past few seasons I have noticed a marked difference in the way many people view Derby prep races. I don’t know if it is instant gratification smart phones allow or the winning streaks of Zenyatta, Black Caviar and Rapid Redux or general fickleness brought on by too many divorces, too many fantasy teams or maybe just the myriad of choices people in this century enjoy.
It was much different during the last century.
Henry Ford said, “You can have any color car you want as long as it is black.” If you were born in Brooklyn, you were a Dodger fan and you hated the Giants…and the Yankees. At the end of the year, you weighed the form of all the two-year-olds you had seen, declared one your Derby horse and found someone going to Vegas to plunk down a future bet for you.
Nowadays, young guys drive Detonator Yellow muscle cars and the older set likes their luxury vehicles in Truffle Mica. Dodger fans spend more time rooting for the Angels across town because at least they make the playoffs once in a while and horseplayers jump ship every time a Derby contender gets beat.
Sunday’s San Vicente saw the return of Creative Cause, a multiple graded winner, who was making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). A top contender on almost everyone’s Derby list, the colt that would rather sleep in than go to work, has the pedigree and race record to justify his place there.
Because of his lousy work ethic, his trainer, Mike Harrington, entered Heinz Steinman’s talented colt in the seven-furlong race to leg him up a bit and sharpen him up mentally. Two horses scratched from the six-horse field, leaving it a phony-baloney race, with dubious pace, over a paved track which left Creative Cause with virtually no chance of winning. He ran a creditable race, picked up a few bucks in graded earnings, galloped out well and now sits in a much better spot for his Derby campaign.
The twitter feed went crazy.
Everything from, “There’s something wrong with him,” to “That was a dismal performance,” to “He’ll never win the Derby.”
Wow. I’d hate to own that piece of crap. He’s an embarrassment to the sport. Another Zippy Chippy.
Monday, the play was the same but the leading man was different.
Secret Circle entered the Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn with three wins in four starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint (Should be a Grade1). Unfortunately for him, he had finished a dismal second, beaten half a length, in the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, his first race since the Breeders’ Cup and his initial two-turn attempt. That race was so pitiful that it earned the highest last-race Beyer speed figure in the field, a 98.
The tweeps were on him.
“Can’t drag him that far.” “He’s a sprinter.” “He has distance limitations.” And my personal favorite, “A definite bet against.”
In case you missed it, Secret Circle won drawing away and posted an early 102 Beyer, in another move forward.
What is with these people? Most of them are intelligent and some of them are highly respected in our sport and have been for years. Hey, I don’t pick 100% winners, far from it, but I can most certainly recognize an above average racehorse when I see one.
I am a fan of both of these colts but I can’t say that either one will win the Kentucky Derby (G1). The trail to Churchill Downs is long and arduous and there are many obstacles along the way.
Please don’t write a horse off just because he loses. Regard his body of work and see where his performance fits into the entire Derby picture. Try to think like the trainer. We know what the goal is. The question is, “How do we get there?”
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