Friday, May 2, 2008
The Official GDB Kentucky Derby Preview
Oh, Christ. I'm completely pulling this out of my ass since I don't really know ANYTHING about the Kentucky Derby (except that being in the infield is one of the greatest experiences of my life, highly recommended, if you can remember), much less horse racing. But here we are, the "Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports" (ya, like horse racing is a sport... I don't care what Seabiscut says). Lucky for this group, legendary Smarty Jones, as chosen by Young Porque 4 years ago to win the Derby (and did) is currently out to pasture eating and railing other horses. Here's a quick run down of everything you need to knew Derby-wise:
It's the 134th running of the Derby, so I'd say it's a little storied. It's called the "Race for the Roses" due to the fact that the winner is showered with 554 roses. Arguably the most important horse race in the world and the kick off of the Triple Crown series. Supposedly it is also the most difficult to win, but that's all here say. It is a 1 1/4 mile track that is built for speed from the beginning and the final straightaway.
This year's total purse is $2+ million, with the winner taking home around $1.4 million. On top of that is the eternal glory of being a Derby winner, weeks of speculation as to whether or not you can take the Triple Crown, a garland of flowers, and if you end up dying sooner rather than later, a huge memorial service and weeks upon months of Breaking News coverage on ESPN (cue pictures of Barbaro, tear).
The Kentucky Derby is a race for 3 year old thoroughbred horses and the climax of the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival. This year features an overcrowded field of 20 horses running in front of 150,000 (or more) spectators wearing ridiculous hats. Highlights include "Millionaire's Box" (home to the ridiculous hats and the "privileged"), the infield (you can't really see the race, but hey, it's a frat party down there), and wonderful Mint Juleps (a drink of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup mix. Absolutely delicious and the ACTUAL cause of why most do not see or remember the race).
THE STORY LINE COMING IN:
At this point, there are really 3 horses who are deemed as the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby this year, and all three have questions surrounding them.
1.) Big Brown, a lightly ridden horse, with a mere three lifetime starts. Is he actually the prodigal horse that so many people think he is? It should be noted that, although he only has three starts under his belt, he is 3-0. He may be the most talked about horse since young Barbaro, but will all the pressure get to his head? Should he take the checkered flag (?), Big Brown will most certainly deserve all the hype as to whether or not he can truly be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. He is coming out of the last post, number 20, with 3-1 odds.
2.) Colonel John, based out of California with 4-1 odds, has only raced on "Cushion Track", synthetic dirt. The Kentucky Derby is made of REAL dirt. Will he be able to copy his previous success from those synthetic surfaces to dirt surfaces? Based on his past performances, all signs point to yes. He will be coming out of the 10 post.
3.) "Young" Pyro, a Porque favorite and his pick to win it all, is also considered a favorite, at 6-1 odds. The question with him is if he can recover mentally from his most recent race, an absolute disaster. He finished a piss poor 10th out of 12, losing by 39 lengths in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington. However, that course was raced on PolyTrack, a synthetic surface and, unlike Colonel John, Pyro has not finished below third on dirt surfaces.
A possible fourth question is if anyone else can steal some thunder from those three favorites. No other horse in the field is listed at odds better than 15-1, so eyes will be on whether any of them can shock the world and steal the Derby? An interesting subplot is Eight Belles, at a generous 20-1 odds, trying to become the fourth member of her gender to win the Derby. She has the tradition, will she let everyone else down?
PORQUE'S FEARLESS PICKS:
I generally choose my winner based upon how dank their name is, and it has worked twice for me, most notably when I chose Smarty Jones on a hungover Friday afternoon at an Indiana University cafeteria with Young Knuckleballer, and most recently Barbaro because the name made me think of him as a warrior. So with that, here are my choices:
The California stallion has shown the late, breakaway speed that so often dictates the outcome of the Derby. He is accustomed to racing on dirt and has already shown the ability to crank out the 1 1/4 miles with ease. Plus, he is a hometown boy, being trained in Louisville, so he should have the crowd behind him.
2.) Big Brown
Big Brown has the lightening quick speed to get it down, but questions remain as to if he can take on the entire length of the course. Having only three career starts under his belt does not instill confidence, and he does have a history of chronic sore feet. But he is considered a freakish athlete and coming out of the 20 post, he may encounter a lot of bumping and traffic, and no one knows how he will handle it. I think he has the potential to take it, but it may be too much to ask right now.
A slight long shot, this horse is currently 3-2 with a one race winning streak. He has never finished below second, so this horse knows what it is like to feel the podium and certainly will want to taste victory again. He currently stands at 1-0 outside of his home state of California, so he definitely can deal with a hostile environment. He has blazing speed that will favor him, but he is coming out of post 19, a post in which no horse has ever won the Derby. Can he rewrite the history books?
Unfortunately, Chad Johnson was not allowed to enter this year due to contract negotiations and the fact that he wasn't allowed a head start. Maybe next year Chad.
Enjoy the Derby and let the official speculation and questioning of a possible Triple Crown winner begin.