Kentucky Derby Notes: Say What?!, Post Draw Tomorrow & Horses I Like So Far

Hello again everybody...

I promised it yesterday, and now I'm delivering a brand new Notes column. I had plenty of guesses yesterday as to what I might be writing about: "The Beautiful Sport" (Soccer, Futbol, Football, whatever you want to call it), Lacrosse (either the indoor or college variety), or even Arena Football (who'd have guessed that would still be around?).

But none of those are correct. Instead, I'm going to be filling you in on "The Sport of Kings", Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Specifically the Triple Crown Races. Now I may not be able to convert many of you into Horse Racing fans, but I figure by filling you in with a little info, I can get a few of you to tune in Saturday, May 3 at around 5pm to check out "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports". So before you roll your eyes and close the blog, take a moment to check out what I'm bringing and see if maybe I can't convince you to tune in!

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Today I'm starting my coverage of the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. First a quick historical sketch.

The Derby is the Grandaddy of all horse races for several reasons. One, it's the first major American race of the season. It always occurs the first Saturday in May, so it's become the second major sporting indicator of Spring (after opening day in Baseball). Two, it's the beginning of the Triple Crown stretch which includes the Preakness Stakes (May 17th) and the Belmont Stakes (June 7th). A maximum of 20 horses travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete for the chance to go down in history as a Triple Crown Champion.

Only 11 horses have been able to complete the Triple Crown trifecta in the 125 years of the 3 events. The last being Affirmed in 1978. So it's been 29 years since we've last had a Triple Crown winner and those of us who enjoy the sport dearly hope to not make it an even 30 this year.

So with that, I'm going to preview a handfull of horses who's past performances I like going into the 2008 Derby. An important note to remember is that the Post Draw (the selection of where horses will go into the starting gate) occurs tomorrow and will have big impact on who my final picks are going to be.

That being said, here are a few notes on horses I like so far:

Big Brown, winner of the Florida Derby (which is the video I've embedded below - BB actually started from the 12-hole in this race. Watch him get to the front and then pull away down the stretch. That's going to be much easier from an inside post in the Derby, and nearly impossible if he gets stuck with 15-20), is probably going to be the betting favorite when all is said and done. He's got the best speed numbers and is a front runner, so he will need a post close to the inside to enable him to get out front early. If he gets a post position of 1 thru 7, then I'm making him my horse to win.

Gayego, winner of the Arkansas Derby, is a stalker, meaning he'll want to be just off the pace for the bulk of the race and then make a charge down the backstretch. He's got the numbers to hang with Big Brown, so if he gets the right draw (say 5-10 somewhere), he'll have a good shot.

Colonel John, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, is a closer, meaning that he'll be hanging back in the pack and hoping the speed horses burn themselves out, so he can make a late rally for the win. The trick with him is that all of his races have come on synthetic tracks, so there's some question as to how he'll do on dirt. Generally horses do better going from synthetic to dirt, versus dirt to synthetic. But that's no gurantee that he'll do well at Churchill. So far his workouts leading up to the Derby have all been solid, so it would appear he can handle the dirt just fine, but you just don't know for sure until the race is run.

Adriano, winner of the Lanes End Stakes, is another closer. He's the longest shot of the group, in part because his trainer has been moving him between surfaces. This horse has run turf, synthetic, and dirt. The bad news is that his worst performance came on dirt. The good news is that Edgar Prado (won the Derby with Barbaro) came off of another Derby horse (Monba) specifically to get onto this horse.

Eight Belles, is the only Filly who may run in the race. I include her mostly for my mom, who was a huge Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes Champion) booster. I say she "may run" because her Owner and Trainer have decided to enter her in the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, which is the major event for Fillies on Derby weekend. So they're going to wait and see what post she draws in the Derby. If they like her draw in the Derby, they'll run her there. If not, then she'll be the runaway favorite in the Oaks. So tomorrow's a huge day for her and handicappers who have to account for her.

One other name you'll hear a lot of, but I'm discounting, is Pyro. He was one of the favorites coming into the Prep season, but laid a huge egg in the Bluegrass Stakes and finished in the back of the pack. So the question for fans is whether that effort was a result of the horse not liking the synthetic track at Lexington, or whether he wasn't in the right physical shape. Either way, horses don't usually have lousy prep races and then come back to win the Derby, so I'm going to throw him out of my exotic bets.

So that's it for today. The Derby Post Draw is on ESPN2 Wednesday at 4pm CST. I'll be checking it out and have an update on the posts for you on Thursday!


  1. Is horse racing really a sport?? Geez, what is this world coming to?? Will you be covering Michael Vick's favorite sport next?? :)

  2. Horseracing != Sport. It's an athletic event, a race, a competetion. But not a sport.

    Indoor football is a sport (but not necessarily an athletic event).

    Poker is none of these.

  3. Of *course* Horse Racing is a sport. Remember that at one time Baseball, Boxing and Horse Racing were the most popular sports in the country!

    I'm not saying I agree with ESPN's decision to have Secretariat on their list of the 100 Greatest Athletes, but by doing so they've said that Horse Racing is absolutely a sport. And if it's good enough for the Worldwide Leader, then it's good enough for me.

    And to calm anyone's fears, No, there will not be any Poker columns forthcoming.

  4. Are you planning a Triple Crown party with mint juleps and such and all?
    Sounds like fun!!

  5. I'm not planning a party per se.

    I *am* going to be down at Canterbury Park where WCCO will be broadcasting live from 4 to 6pm.

    They'll have all the mint juleps and other Derby favorites you can handle.