This past weekend there were two Kentucky Derby prep races. The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland race course and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Each of these races is the premier event for the respective tracks. As the Kentucky Derby is to Churchill Downs, as the Preakness is to Pimlico and the Belmont Stakes is to Belmont Park. To a race caller it is their Super Bowl.
Track race callers are a rare breed. It takes a unique individual having a unique mindset and word association skill to be able to recognize the jockey sliks and associate them with the horses’ name. They have roughly 15-20 minutes between races to study, take the test (i.e. call the race) which lasts between 54 seconds (4½ furlong race) to 2 minutes (1¼ mile race).
Two years ago I gave longtime Oaklawn Park track announcer Terry Wallace’s call of the Arkansas Derby, a public tongue lashing, calling it “Worst Race Call Ever”. A year later he retired and was replaced by Frank Mirahmadi, a talented caller in his own right, but his call of Saturday’s Arkansas Derby is one he’ll soon want to forget.
As the field approached the quarter pole (aka far turn), Mirahmadi mentioned the favorite, War Academy was “trying to get involved” when in fact he was dropping back out of contention, being pulled up out of the race. Something that Frank did recognize a few calls later. Obviously flustered by his blunder, he then picked up the call as the field turned for home calling the 5-2 second choice Oxbow ,”trying to get involved” while Oxbow raced wide well behind 5-6 rivals. Not his best call when it was his time to shine.
On the other hand, approximately 15 minutes prior to the running of the Arkansas Derby, at Pimlico race caller Dave Rodman was finishing up his day by calling final (11th) race. It was a 1 1/16 miles maiden claiming event with a field of seven. Ironically, just past the quarter pole, the same spot where Miramadi unraveled, Rodman shined brightly, as he does day in and day out. What unfolded from the quarter pole to the finish was almost as remarkable as Rodman’s description of it.
Here’s how the Equibase chart described #12 – Spicer Cub’s race, “… assumed the early lead, set the pace slightly off the rail, bolted midway on the far turn, was in third position entering the stretch, was straightened at the head of the stretch to the six path, regained a clear lead in upper stretch, bolted inside the three sixteenths pole causing the rider to lose his irons, raced between the parked starting gate and the outside rail in midstretch, closed determinedly under game urging and just missed.”
The JockeyWorld.org racing term of the day is #104… “Field”
Recapping Pimlico’s Saturday 11-race card posted had 8 winners (6Top Selections in BOLD type) having $2 WIN pay-offs of $9.80 (1st race), $2.60 (2nd), $8.40 (3rd), $7.60 (4th), $4.80 (5th), $3.60 (9th), $2.20 (10th) and $6.00 (11th).
The BEST BET of the Day (6 4-0-1) Tale of the Dragon (R1 #6 7-2 PT; 4-1 M/L) was in no hurry in the early stages as she trailed into the backstretch, passed all rivals just before entering the stretch and went on to a convincing 7½ length victory to pay $9.80 to WIN, $5.00 to PLACE and $3.20 to SHOW.
The LONGSHOT PICK (6 2-0-1) Seeyouinthetown (R5 #7 7-5 PT; 12-1 M/L) was bet down significantly when this race was taken off the turf and the field was cut to seven starters. She didn’t disappoint her backers in winning by 2¼ lengths returning $4.80 to WIN, $3.20 to PLACE and $2.40 to SHOW.
SHOW Parlay Play of the Day, $33 on Moon Legacy (R7 #13; 6-5 PT, 3-1 M/L) sent off as the post time favorite ran to form, barely getting beat in the final jumps to finish second for the fifth time in as many career starts, returning $3.00 to PLACE and $2.20 to SHOW. That adds $3.30 to the $33.60 parlay amount for Day 8.
Selections for the Day 8 Pimlico Sunday, April 14th card are Page 2.