JC / Railbird

Derby Eve Notes

– First, of course: Rachel Alexandra. Winner of the Oaks by a record 20 1/4 lengths, all while looking like she was out for a jog. “Breathtaking,” “one-of-a-kind freak,” “wow, wow, wow,” and possibly “the most dominating victory in a major race since Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes,” were just a few of the immediate reactions. Magnificent, I’ll add. Awesome. A final eighth in :12.16, a final three furlongs in :37.06, all without jockey Calvin Borel moving. Not a shake of the reins, not a flick of the whip, urged her to that beautiful widening lead down the Churchill stretch.

In the April 18 issue of the Thoroughbred Times, an excerpt from Regret’s 1934 obituary appeared on the final page. Regret was the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby; Rachel Alexandra looked every bit like she could have become the fourth. “Peerless Regret she was hailed and peerless she undoubtedly was,” recalled the writer, “and to this day we have never been able to think of her without that descriptive adjective affixed.” It is now affixed to Rachel Alexandra, wherever her career takes the filly.

– Props to announcer Mark Johnson for making the most of what could have been a bland call and deftly incorporating Borel’s stretch mugging into his patter with impeccable timing: “Borel looks over his right shoulder, no danger!,” he says as the rider’s head ducks. “Over his left shoulder, no danger!”

– Derby picks: Instead of adding to the glut, I’ll point to this page, on which can be found a surfeit of sharp handicapping, selections, analysis, etc. After taking a first pass through the Derby past performances, I landed on Friesan Fire, who I’d previously dismissed except as an exotic possibility, due to the seven week layoff and the lack of a nine furlong prep. I see I wasn’t the only convert — several of the contributors to the HRI Media Poll tabbed him on top, and the Larry Jones trainee is the 9-2 favorite in early Derby wagering. Except — now, I’ve taken a second pass and while Friesan Fire strikes me as a must-use horse, I’m not so confident he’s a winner. (That layoff!) What will I do on Saturday? I’m not sure yet … but I will be using Friesan Fire, Regal Ransom, and Dunkirk as A horses; Papa Clem, Desert Party, and I Want Revenge as B horses; Musket Man, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Pioneerof the Nile as C horses. Yes, that’s right … I’ve narrowed the Derby down to nine horses.

– In the second installment of the Blinkers Off chronicles, our special correspondent wades into the sea of humanity that is the Oaks crowd.

– Just a lovely piece of writing: The legend tutors the rookie in Derby riding. “‘An option will open for you,’ the legend tells the rookie … ‘Wait for it. Wait for it to appear. If you move early, you’ll pay the price.'”

1 Comment

Regret won the Derby, Rachel Alexandra took off after a textbook trip to stun an Oaks crop we already knew she was superior to. (…)If wherever her career takes her next is anything but a Triple Crown race, the filly might be peerless among her sex, but her connections will have denied her a chance to show how great she really is

Posted by Malcer on May 2, 2009 @ 5:54 am