Every year, the first Saturday in May is the day that is supposed to showcase the sport of thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the one day of the year when horse racing enthusiast and the Average Joe, sports fans or not, come together with one goal in mind… pick the Derby winner. It’s ashamed that this uncommon bond only takes place once a year.
For the record, I picked Pyro, who was sent off as the 3rd choice at 5-1. He finished 9th. The official line on him was, “Pinched at the start”. Despite the rough start, he managed to move from 18th position to 9th in the final 4 furlongs. The winner and betting favorite at 2-1, Big Brown, was the best horse on paper and proved it on the track. Considering he only had 3 career races under his belt and broke from the 20th post were two factors that kept the most experienced handicappers off his bandwagon.
Unfortunately, the day was marred when 2nd place finisher Eight Belles, broke both front ankles and was immediately euthanized by the track veterinarian. It seems like just when things might be looking up for the horse racing industry, the dark side of horse racing rears its ugly head. It would have been a great day… and great story… but the sports gods continue to deliver low blows (re: Barbaro in the Preakness) to this troubled industry.
The support Eight Belles, the only filly in the race, received at the betting windows proved one thing. Horse racing fans are NOT just old, cigar smoking men. Both male and female, young and old enjoy horse racing. That was evident yesterday at North East Racing & Sports Club (aka OTB) where I work part-time as a Pari-Mutuel Clerk. The line of support for Eight Belles was pretty much divided by gender. The women were betting on her while the majority of handicappers (me included) discounted her chances against the boys.
It’s strange how the presence of a filly going up against 19 boys, on the biggest stage horse racing has to offer, can create such interest. It was the shot in the arm horse racing needed, but it’s ashamed Eight Belles lost her life in the process.
Looking forward to the Preakness, the Maryland Jockey Club has a tall task ahead of it. Big Brown now appears to be invincible… a shoe in for the Triple Crown. Yeah, how many times have we heard that one over the past 30 years? The tall task is getting horses to run against this monster. My guess is we’ll have a field of eight… tops! The only Derby starter who expressed some interest in challenging Big Brown in the Preakness was 5th place finisher Recapturetheglory. The following are also possible for the Preakness: Behindatthebar (Lexington Stakes winner); El Gato Malo (San Rafael winner); Giant Moon (Count Fleet winner); Harlem Rocker (Withers winner); Kentucky Bear (third, Blue Grass); Stevil (fourth, Blue Grass) Tres Borrachos, (third, Arkansas Derby) and Yankee Bravo (California Derby winner). We can only hope they weren’t scared off by Big Brown’s performance in the Derby.
Stay tuned, I’ll do my best to keep you informed over the next 13 days.
Recapping Day 11 (May 3rd) of the Pimlico Spring Meet …
Best Bet, Marine Charm (# 3; 6th race; 4-1) was sent to the lead but faded in the stretch, holding onto the Show spot as the 3rd choice at 3-1, paying $ 3.00 to SHOW.
Longshot, Nanicoke (# 3; 3rd race; 12-1) for some reason did not exhibit the early speed I anticipated, but did rally for 3rd at 5-1, paying $4.20 to SHOW.
Sorry, but due to having a strong case of Post-Derby Hangover Syndrome, I did not handicap Pimlico’s (Day 12) Sunday card. My apologies!
Check back on Wednesday evening for my Thursday (Day 13) picks at Old Hilltop.