Sunday, May 6, 2012

Derby, Oaks and Canterbury Musings

Kentucky Derby

I supposed I should start with the obvious – once again I go down in flames in picking the Kentucky Derby winner.  Alpha was simply a no show around the racetrack.  When his connections try to figure out what went wrong, someone should tell them, “Grevelis picked you” and just shake their head slowly. 

I made the mistake of clearly underestimating jockey Mario Gutierrez.  In the blog I openly questioned whether the unheralded young rider in his first Derby had what it takes to pilot home I’ll Have Another on that large a stage – and discounted the horse’s chance because of it.  I was clearly wrong. The horse has clearly stepped up from two to three, ran great preps, should have had no problem with the distance and his running style was well suited to the race.  I questioned the pilot and young Gutierrez beat me down with his whip.  Good for him – it was a good ride and I’m happy for him.

Doug O’Neill had the winner prepped perfectly and I could hear the cheering from my California friends all the way up in the Canterbury press box.  Several of the horses that I had a minority interest in that ran in California a few years back were trained by O’Neill.  I met him on one occasion in the walking ring at Santa Anita and he was gracious, warm and unassuming. Friends who have a closer relationship with him speak in much more glowing terms.  Both he and Gutierrez will need to hold on tight and put on some sunglasses because it is going to be quite a ride heading into the Preakness and the spotlight is going to be very bright.

Most of the buzz after the race was about Bodemeister and while no one wants to discount the Derby winner, setting those fractions up front and still managing to hold on to second was nothing short of amazing.  Of the others that were close to that early pace, Hansen held on the best and he faded to ninth while the others finished 15th, 19th and 20th while Bodemeister was only beaten one and a half lengths.  That Arkansas Derby was no fluke and he made a believer out of me.

Kentucky Oaks

The race set up in the exact opposite way I envisioned.  I know when the half mile split came up in :47.47 that there was no way Summer Applause could close into that pace.  I was surprised that Broadway’s Alibi couldn’t hold the lead, but Believe You Can certainly believed she could as she ground out the victory down the lane over a very game Broadway Alibi.  With The top five including Grace Hall and On Fire Baby, it looks like the filly crop is nearly as deep as the males.  It’s shaping up to be a great 2012 racing season.

Picking Winners

Over at Hello Race Fans, my guest shot at taking on the best in Graded Stakes races was less than impressive.  I whiffed on all 11 stakes (though I DID have some company there, so I didn’t feel too badly) while ending up with 3 seconds and 2 thirds.  Not one of my more dazzling performances and, unlike Mario Gutierrez, I wilted under the glare of the spotlight.  I have no excuses and I will do better on Black Eyed Susan/Preakness weekend…if I managed to get invited back!

Canterbury Park

Governor Mark Dayton signed the purse enhancement bill the other day so it’s now official, there will be some purse relief for horsemen, though it looks like the effects will not be felt until next season.  That may appear to be a bit of a letdown, but given that current year revenue generates the following year’s purses, it makes a whole lot of sense.  While purses will not go through the roof, they should stabilize and return to levels that we haven’t seen in a few years.  It will give owners and trainers a fighting chance to recoup their investments and make some money and still race at one of the most horsemen friendly facilities in the United States.

The MTA New Owner's Seminar had a nice turnout on Saturday.  I was privileged to speak about racing partnerships and the mechanics of claiming.  Hopefully we didn't scare them away with the realities of the industry.  I always start these things with some sobering statistics geared to make them think about why they are getting into this game.  Expectations need to be realistic and going in thinking you're going to invest $200 and come away with several thousand is simply out of whack.  Once that's out of the way, I can relate the details of ownership and try to let folks know what the feeling is like when your horse crosses the wire first.  At the end, I hope that folks have a clear understanding of the realities and joys of the sport I love so much.

Live racing begins Preakness Day weekend and I’ve worked out a deal with a local trainer that many folks have been asking me for: a Canterbury only runner that can be “owned” for just the racing season.  It’s a two horse package where we would lease 50% of the horses while trainer owns the remaining 50%.  You can e-mail me for details but we would start as soon as the group was formed (ideally this coming week) and finish up on the last day of the meet, September 3rd.  It should be inexpensive and fun way to have action all season while getting a taste of the ownership experience.

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