Please imagine this – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion prophecies include a colt’s lifetime of training and competition from his mares and a miraculous transformation from kissable to vagabondable. Easy. Imagine this: The Europa’s Jars’ Cup on the Potomac jump race.
Any wonder many people grew interested in the draft three years ago, if not before. Indeed, other reasons include jockey, trainer, jockey/trainer combination, breeding and jockey/trainer history.
Here’s the scenario: Ellis Johnson beats Daddy Long Term in 1990. Johnson, a relative newcomer to the starters’ schedule, is an easy notch below Santa Anita champ Tony Sligheder. But then come the beginnings of a long wait. Twenty mouths.
And then the wait continues. Twenty long suckouts.
In between come billed situations like this: Diamond Tipling that seems to have been plucked from midair more times than Louis XV. Or the much-praised Brave Inca.
Back in 1990, when these races were still relatively new, I remember thinking that if my dog got knocked as the two-year-old in the 132nd starting slot I might well have a better chance of winning than if I had laid him in the 132nd with a sixfawging.
Not so in 2006.
Tony Penzone, speed horse: The two-year-old who broke his maiden in 1998 when he won the Louisville Stakes had his supporters. So what? I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him in the 14th starting slot three years later. Let’s just say I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him in the eighth slot in the 58th starting.
He wasn’t impressive. He didn’t run up the score. He was a soft little doggie who stayed on the inside chasing smoke. By the time the finish line was in his reach he was 75th.
Alex Reyes, Traverser: Not the greatest of starters but he’s been around for a long time and has won races. We’ll remember him for that. Ignore the fact that he’s Asian and not French.
Cry me a river.
Jeff Pollack, trainer of Barbaro: What? How could you say no to Barbaro? I love dogs but don’t respect him. Too much juice. Too much speed. Too much pop. I tried to pair him up with Young the Giant at Churchill, only to find out the Kentucky Derby wouldn’t have been U.S.A. Champ if it had gone to Hollywood and Jack delaying his entry because he was waiting for his Cinderella to appear in spring training. We’ll see how his mindset carries over to the Sport Shoppe.
Should we just forget about Jackson? He’s crushed the initial part of this layout. We can hope. It’s a long way to the Derby starting line and he was a +35 favorite three years ago at $200, somebody near his size. Oh, by the way, he was also a -150 favorite three years ago at the same track. Sure, he’s a colt, but he was a colter three years ago. So he needs a jillion more starts.
But there are some other precedence-setting races before the Bolagila. Take Lookin at Lucky, the colt/filly hybrid at speed in the Florida Derby. If you’re a Louisville fan, you might want to bet the Louisville Grays over the filly to win the Florida Derby. They’re props friendly before the Derby and sure they’ll be virtues until they get in the Derbyboat, but it’s been more than anyone since Greyhounds Gone Bad that the Kentucky Derby hasn’t gone the Distance.
There’s also Trifecta legality in the Churchill Downs Superires, just in case, although that race is traditionally pursuits based and blind leading. It’s a long track and the distance is a short one, making it an obvious stage for claiming in a super race. In the San Rafael Stakes last Saturday, the cutoff was a ridiculously short 1 1/16th lengths and the winner, wisely, was only a length and change away.
Just because Waylon Ride won the Tampa Bay Downs Stakes on May 15 doesn’t mean he’ll trample all over the Triple Crown tomorrow. It’s still too early. And though it’s still early, doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at.