2012 Kentucky Derby

May 8, 2012

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LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:  Mario Gutierrez (L) ...

Photo: I'll Have Another (purple) down the stretch.

The first Saturday in May is always one of my favorite days. It is another large sporting event that brings the casual fan to watch a sport that they otherwise would not normally follow. There are events such as the Daytona 500, The Masters, The Super Bowl, and of course…..

The Kentucky Derby.

The Run for the Roses…I always thought this, and not the Rose Bowl, should be called the Granddaddy of them all.   After all…this has been around a LOT longer than the Rose Bowl game.

Breaking from the #19 post position a horse named I’ll Have Another was the winner, making a game move down the stretch to win the Derby. It went off at 16-1 which allowed for a nice pay-day for the Goodman household as BOTH Mr. and Mrs. Goodman had winning tickets.

I enjoy horse racing, but would not consider myself a “gambler” per se. I like playing poker with the guys on occasion, and will attend some of the live racing meets here in Lincoln. I am not a big wager type of guy. $10 on a race is a large bet for me. Normally it is the standard $2 to win-place–show on a horse.

Yum! Brands who sponsors the Triple Crown holds a contents where the winner that is selected gets $100,000 to drop on one bet – one horse – one chance to win for the Kentucky Derby. This year the guy who got to place the “mystery bet” put his $100K on #11 – a longshot by the name of Alpha.

At the time the bet was placed the horse – had it won the Kentucky Derby, would have paid back an amazing $2 million on that $100,000 wager.

The real comment of the day is when the individual was asked by an NBC reporter, would the lucky contestant like to make the wager or would they rather just take the hundred grand and walk away. Without hesitation the guy responded “I am a horse player “ and indicated he was going for the big pay day and not the “small potatoes of the hundred large.

I can tell you if that was offered to me, I would walk with the hundred thousand without blinking an eye. Guess my risk appetite is a LOT lower than most people at the horse track.

Another interesting tidbit from my gambling experience this weekend. As you can expect, at the simulcasting place in Lincoln, the patron traffic was teaming on Saturday. There was a HUGE crowd watching the races some even all dressed up in their faux Kentucky Derby at the Lincoln Race Course experience. The parking lot was packed and fortunately my father and I basically just went and placed our bets and then took off to do some further work for the day.

When I came back on Sunday afternoon to cash the winning tickets, the place was deserted, you wondered if it was even open…there were about 50 cars in the parking lot, and I am guessing some of those were for the people working there as well.

Needless to say I got in and out of the place much more quickly than I did the day before…and left with a lot more money than I came with.

I am sure the same cannot be said for most everyone else on Saturday.

Murder at the Track

Death is no stranger to the racing crowd, even around an event like The Kentucky Derby.  In 2008, Derby runner-up Eight Belles was put down on the track.

The past two years, however, have seen human death case a cloud over Churchill Downs.  Last year, jockey Michael Baze was found dead in his vehicle three days after the Derby.  The cause of death was accidental painkiller overdose.

This year, 48 year old Adan Fabian Perez was murdered in a barn on the premises of the track (more than 200 people live on the grounds full-time).  There hasn’t been much released about the murder of the horse groom, although there was some arguments in the vicinity on Saturday night.  Perhaps soon we’ll know who killed Perez, and why.

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Giving ’em the bird

May 5, 2009

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Each year the first Saturday in May rolls around….and the casual horseracing fan in all of us takes over. It is much like the Indianapolis 500, or Wimbledon.  You may not follow the sport at all, but one week out of the year you tune in.  You watch.  You might even host or go to a “Derby party” Heck many of you might even head to your local track or simulcast racing establishment and throw a couple of bucks on your lucky number.

That is probably the only way you had the #8 horse in the Eleventh Race at Churchill Downs this past Saturday.

Mine That Bird, a 50-1 long shot came from seemingly Paducah down the stretch to go from 15th to 1st to win by a number of lengths under a great ride by Jockey Calvin Borel.  Borel coincidentally became just the seventh jockey to win both the Kentucky Oaks, which is run on Friday, and then pull off the double header with the Derby winner on Saturday.  This alone is no small feat. There are great story lines all over the place here.  A virtual unknown horse.  Trained in New Mexico, which I don’t think anyone would argue is exactly the bastion of thoroughbred racing in this country.  Originally purchased for a mere nine thousand and five hundred dollars as a yearling and racing against horses that sold for multiple millions with proven bloodlines and high hopes.

The Bird is the Word!

Normally NBC does a magnificent job of broadcasting the Kentucky Derby. It is one of their marquee events of the year.  But this year, a lot did not go to script.

First off, heavy rains inundated the area.  This made for in racing language what is referred to as an off track.  Of course Churchill Downs is one of the best facilities in the world, so it was described as a fast wet track…aka – a nice way to say it is muddy and sloppy.

Secondly, no one saw this winner coming. Even the Great Tom Durkin, who calls many of the most prominent races on television seemed to be out of sorts as the Bird flew by a multitude of also rans along the rail.  It took a few seconds, well after Borel had grabbed the lead for good that Durkin announced he had hit the front of the field.

And finally, immediately after the race it was evident to me that NBC was scrambling to get some more coverage of the owner and trainer for this horse.  Normally the television crew is strategically positioned to keep an eye on the reactions of the owners and trainers in the stands.  Capturing all of their glee or agony as their horse is flying home down the stretch.

No Cameras seemed to be following trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley.

The very long winded interview with Jockey Calvin Borel on the back stretch is a normal part of the coverage, but then after that there was a good couple of minutes of open mic coverage with the outrider and Borel yelling and pointing and celebrating with the crowd.  Talk about your can’t miss television.  No doubt Borel is an animated guy and the thrill of the moment was fun to watch.  But 30 seconds of this would have sufficed…But it did allow for NBC to get their folks in place to ask a bunch of stupid questions.

The brilliant line of questioning once again reported to Woolley that he had travelled all the way from New Mexico.  Via of all things….a motorized vehicle and not an airplane…in order to bring the horse to the race. Although you have all heard it by now, Woolley was on crutches, yet took the time to walk his horse out of the barn to the paddock complete with crutches and all in the muddy conditions.  “How long did it take to get here again Chip?”  ” How many miles is it to Churchill Downs”  Why ask the trainer? NBC had already mentioned these facts about ten times in the telecast.  Much to the guffaw of many at my household Woolley responded beautifully with something along the lines of “Maybe you guys will talk about something else now other than how far of a drive it was”

In the end, a brilliant and thrilling ride by a great Jockey, a great storyline on many fronts, and for the betting public out there, a smooth $103 to win ticket.  To all of you “experts” that did not see this one coming….

I guess they all got the bird.