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Kentucky Derby Post Mortem

by The Oracle

As enjoyable as it was for me to watch Rachel Alexandra deliver her stunning performance in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, the Kentucky Derby was equally dismal and disappointing for me. I like it when things make sense and I don’t like it when things don’t make sense. Give me order over chaos every time. And this year’s Derby offered up far too much chaos and far too little order for my senses and sensibilities to accept.

It was bad enough when race favorite I Want Revenge scratched the morning of the race due to a slight injury. That weakened the field and lowered the odds on some of the other logical horses. But that was nothing compared to the running of the race itself. A horse who had avoided every national racing stage (except the Breeders Cup Juvenile where he finished last) toyed with the competition and drew off by more than six lengths, despite posting a career high Beyer speed figure entering the race of 81 in eight career starts.

Was it really as crazy as it seemed immediately following the race? Let’s take a closer look.

Favored Friesan Fire apparently injured himself coming out of the gate and was bleeding pretty badly from the hoof according to trainer Larry Jones. That could certainly explain his poor performance. That is a legitimate excuse.

Dunkirk stumbled pretty badly a few strides into the race and never threatened. He may have been compromised when he stumbled or simply been thrown off his game by the track or the huge field. His excuse is less than Friesan Fire’s but you can build a case that he did have trouble and his inexperience may have cost him.

Pioneerof the Nile appeared to have run his race. He showed good early speed, sat third down the backstretch, moved to the lead on the turn and survived a three-way photo for place which he won.

Papa Clem and Musket Man also ran to their form in rounding out the Superfecta. These horses had both won at least one of the prep races and contended in the other two. They weren’t top tier contenders but were eligible to run well.

Chocolate Candy closed a lot of ground to finish 5th, it was a representative effort in my opinion. The rest of the field ran slightly worse or better than what most people would have guessed based on their form coming into the race.

I’m feeling a little better already, because I’ve accounted for the efforts of 18 out of the 19 runners in the race. They either ran to form or had an excuse as to why they didn’t run to form.

That brings us to the Derby winner, Mine That Bird. In hindsight, 50-1 seems like a tremendous underlay. In fact, I believe he could have gone postward at 50-1 or higher in several races on the card based on his past performances. Who was betting this horse? I don’t see how it was possible that he won it. I can’t see it, I don’t see it, and I will never see it. And to be honest I don’t like it. But I do accept it, and if he wins the Preakness in two weeks against a different set of horses over a different racetrack and different track conditions, it will go a long ways towards legitimizing this victory.

And if he does win the Preakness and moves to New York with the possibility of winning the Triple Crown against a beaten and beleaguered group of three year old colts, I hope the owners of Rachel Alexandra will do the right thing and bring her to the Belmont and say “game on”.