Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kentucky Derby - the Day After

With the Derby favorite prevailing, the "wise guys" who usually try to beat the favorite nurse their wounds. They were relying to much on history. Yes, no horse had won from the 20 post since 1929, but there had been only 11 Derbies with 20 horses in that time, and plenty of horses had won from far outside posts. To be sure, Big Brown had much to overcome with the post and his lack of experience, but as I wrote yesterday, while he had to "be far, far better than anyone else in the race to even be in the picture.... he just may be that much better than this mediocre field." And the field proved to be mediocre, and Big Brown far, far better. I did bet him on top in a lot of triple keys.

Unfortunately, while my top pick, Denis of Cork ran third at 27 to 1, I did not bet the filly, Eight Belles, at all. Sometimes a horse is so improbable that I would not bet on him or her even if they ran the race again in three weeks; but Eight Belles is one that, in hindsight, I should have had, due to her consistency in a field comprised largely of inconsistent, and mediocre, horses. Tragically, there will be no next time for Eight Belles, as she had to be euthanized after breaking two front ankles. NBC used bad news judgment in its coverage; it was clear to any experienced observer, of which NBC had many working the broadcast, that the horse had been euthanized immediately, and yet NBC pressed the reluctant Dr. Bramlage to explicitly say so on the air.

As with all Derbies, the large field caused some serious traffic problems. One horse I liked, Visionaire, appears to have gotten a particularly difficult trip, and I'll be giving him another chance if he makes it to the Preakness of Belmont. Big Brown certainly seems like a formidable Triple Crown candidate based on his emphatic win, but there's a reason no Derby winner has gone on to win the the next two in the past 30 years. Maintaining his form without a deep "base" of prior experience will be quite a challenge. And while it doesn't appear that any of the vanquished foes from yesterday are likely to turn the tables any time soon, there's always a few "dark horses" who show up to provide a fresh challenge. When Barbaro tragically broke down the Preakness two years ago, it obscured the fact that the winner, Bernardini, was a fresh horse who ran a remarkable race and might have won even if Barbaro ran his best race. One intriguing possibility this year is Casino Drive, a half brother to the past two Belmont Stakes winners, who plans to come from Japan for the Belmont.

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