By Eclipse Award-Winning Writer Sean Clancy, St Publishing
A quick jaunt to Florida for HRRN¹s coverage of the Florida Derby and Dubai World Cup, abandoning the Carolina Cup and my family for the weekend. So much happened, so much to remember, so much to forget, so much to contemplate, so much to shake your head and wonder why.
Julien Leparoux might have lost the Florida Derby for Union Rags. In so doing, he might have won the Kentucky Derby. In the first furlong, there was an opening for Union Rags, all Leparoux had to do was drop his hands and allow the long-striding colt to outrun Reveron from the outside and stalk Take Charge Indy. Daylight, stalking position, game over. To win the Florida Derby, that’s what he had to do. Instead, he took back, instantly yielding the power to Calvin Borel on Take Charge Indy, Javier Castellano on second-choice El Padrino, hell, the whole field. From that moment on, Union Rags was in trouble. He finally got unearthed and wound up third. It might have been the best thing for the horse, he rated, waited and made a run. He also didn¹t appear to have a hard race. If you liked him before the Florida Derby, you should love him now. He did it all and he’ll be a better price.
As for Leparoux, it’s not making the mistake that¹s important. The important part, in the life of a jockey, is how you recover from making that mistake. The first Saturday in May will be fascinating, I hope it files the Florida Derby into the annals of Leparoux’s subtle greatness.
Did anybody notice jockey Calvin Borel hesitate for a split second, about 10 strides before the wire? I saw it live, thought he dropped his whip for a moment. I’ve watched the replay a dozen times (and really should be doing something better with my time), I still can’t tell what happens, it looks like his right foot comes out of the stirrup for a moment or he nearly drops
his whip or both, but he definitely loses his rhythm for a moment. Not sure why. I’ll have to ask him.
Rosie Napravnik presents a professional persona, well beyond her years.
Steeplechase jockey Paddy Young broke his arm in a fall at Camden. The three-time champion was even money to become the first jockey to win four in a row since John Cushman completed his four-bagger in 1983. Young is still favorite, just not even money, and showed why no one has been champion four times in a row for nearly 30 years. Tough game.
Emily Day sent me the best worth repeating of the spring. It goes like this:
Saturday morning, Carolina Cup, in the block barn…
Jonathan Sheppard: “So Emily, what did you bring down?”
Emily Day: “I brought a horse (husband/trainer) Jimmy bought in Ireland last
fall. Funny thing about him, though, he was bred in the U.S., was sent to
Ireland, and then came back. That doesn¹t happen too often, does it?”
Sheppard: “Not if they¹re any good.”
Day and Sheppard shared a good laugh after Day’s cross-Atlantic traveler, Duc De Savoie won the maiden.
Gulfstream Park enjoyed a record day on Florida Derby Day. It was a great card and well supported by fans and horsemen. It was by far the toughest, most crowded day I’ve ever experienced at any racetrack. There were lines for the bathroom, lines for concessions, lines for betting, lines to get in the paddock (it was physically impossible to get in the paddock for some
races), some sinks didn’t work in the bathroom and the ones that did poured hot water on a hot day. Whoever built Gulfstream neglected to consider traffic flow as it seems you¹re always walking perpendicular into crowded lines everywhere you go. As for the paddock, I shudder to think when a horse leaps into one of the giant flower pots or even worse bolts into the center
toward the fountain.
I travel a lot. My 3-year-old son Miles never seems to care. He smiles when I leave, smiles when I return. Before this trip, bag in hand, I explained I was going to Florida. He looked at me and asked, “How long will you be gone?” That’s a first. Something tells me traveling is going to get more difficult.
Union Rags might be the best looking horse I’ve ever seen.
We contemplated taking our Grade III stakeswinner Eagle Poise to Dubai for the 2-mile Dubai Gold Cup before opting to stay home. Not a difficult decision. Fox Hunt broke down early in the $1 million stakes, causing officials to stop the race. They rescheduled it and ran it at the end of the card, two more horses were hurt. A total disaster. I’m glad I wasn’t standing in the desert, horseman on my left shoulder saying, “Take him home,” and banker on my right saying, “Run him.” Difficult decision, one I’m glad I didn¹t have to make.
There are two kinds of people in our game. The ones who laugh when Hero Of Order wins the Louisiana Derby or the ones who curse when Hero Of Order wins the Louisiana Derby. And, sure, it probably depends on how much you bet on the race. For all the planning, knowledge, intuition and studying that goes into the sport, a 109-1 shot wins the Grade I Kentucky Derby prep. I was afraid the little horse was going to tip over the last 100 yards as he was getting tired and favorite Mark Valeski was bearing down on him. Making his ninth start at Fair Ground this winter, breaking from the outside, for a 4 percent trainer and a 4 percent jockey, he holds on and wins. Every time I say I’ve seen it all . . .
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