Now that the dust has settled on Kentucky Derby 139, one that was satisfying on many different levels, some thoughts:
Claude McGaughey III: Shug’s work with Orb has been a study in equine management from the word go. Possessed of some of the fire which lives in his female family, Orb was something of a problem child in his first three starts, and when he finally broke his maiden fourth time out (Revolutionary third), it was plainly one step at a time as the colt shipped down to Payson Park for the winter. After clearing his first allowance condition, Shug went on record saying he’d have preferred a two-other-than, but those are hard to come by and, with really nowhere else to go, put Orb in the GII Fountain of Youth. He won that, defeating Violence, but even then, McGaughey felt the jury was still out. When Orb followed up in the GI Florida Derby, only then did the conditioner realize he was on to something big. Shug has always been classy, even before I visited his barn at Keeneland in 1995 when he had Inside Information for the GI Spinster (she beat Mariah’s Storm that year before airing in the Distaff). He doesn’t know it, but he watched Coronado’s Quest win the ‘98 Haskell from the TDN box at Monmouth, and took the win (narrowly over Belmont winner Victory Gallop) in his stride. Not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, it was touching to see just how overcome he was with emotion following the win, and most of the racing world is thrilled that he’s finally scaled these heights. Hats off, too, to the Phipps and Janney families, two institutions in the Bluegrass.
|(C) Reed Palmer|
Joel Rosario: He’s 28 and already a rock star, perhaps the closest thing this country has seen to a ‘Boy Wonder’ since Steve Cauthen. It’s never easy to shift tack from California to the East Coast, but Rosario’s transition has been seamless. He attracted the attention of most of the top barns in Florida over the winter, and earned the mount on Animal Kingdom. A Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby in the span of five weeks (and about 3/4 of a million dollars in earnings) is a tremendous feat, not to mention his record 38 winners at Keeneland and his double-digit wins in the first few days at Churchill. All of the Dominican Republic was watching and cheering home their native son. It was front-page news the next day.
Rosie Napravnik: Quietly, ‘Girl Wonder’ had a weekend of her own to remember. She won Friday's GII Alysheba S. on Take Charge Indy and piloted Delaunay to a powerhouse score in the GII Churchill Downs Saturday. Both horses earned 109 Beyers--can you say Breeders’ Cup? Though her big Derby hope Shanghai Bobby went to the sidelines, Rosie picked up the mount on Mylute for the big race and rode him a treat, running on for fifth while not missing second by too much.
Maggi Moss: The Iowa-based owner had a memorable Friday-Saturday Daily Double with So Many Ways in the GIII Eight Belles S. and the aforementioned performance of Delaunay in the Churchill Downs S. Since being claimed for $40,000 last May 12, Delaunay is seven for eight and has earned just shy of $567,000 for Moss alone. Astonishing stuff.
Wise Dan: The Point of Entry scratch (logical as it was) was a bummer, but what can you say about Dan? Shows up every time, runs on anything, he’s simply amazing.
Charles Fipke: Never one to shy away from taking a swing, was represented in the Derby by the slow-starting Java’s War and Golden Soul, the 11th-hour addition many assumed was a toss. Well, you know what happens when you assume.
Todd Pletcher: OK, most of his five Derby runners didn’t acquit themselves particularly well (track conditions probably had some say in this), but he did manage to saddle home the first, third and fourth in Friday’s GI Kentucky Oaks, no small feat. And Revolutionary hardly embarrassed himself in the Derby, finishing a good third. Thinking is Pletcher will be back.
Dr. Scholls: For the uptick in the sales of rubber galoshes to horsemen for the walk over (OK, this is made up).
My TDN cohorts DiDonato and Sherack: DiDonato is nothing short of amazing with his finds. Put me onto 11-1 winner of the Turf Sprint Saturday and I got Chamberlain Bridge to run second (mercifully!) for a $250 score. He also managed to use Golden Soul second for the Derby exacta (uh, I didn’t have that one). Much in the same way I locked onto Street Sense off his maiden, Sherack has been an Orb guy the whole way and put his money where his mouth was on him and Delaunay. Kudos, boys. Can I borrow five bucks?
Racing at large: Despite the off track and the inclement weather, the Derby and other races were truly run affairs with few excuses, other than the underfoot conditions, and absent tragedy (no disrespect here to Dr. Bramlage). TV viewership was up, and, for at least one day, the sun shone down on our Old Kentucky Home, figuratively if not literally.