The Brock Talk

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This Preakness Is Crazy Good

In 1989 two thoroughbreds hooked up at the top of the stretch and the battle began. On the outside, jockey Pat Day on the beaten Derby favorite Easy Goer, kept Pat Valenzuela and Derby winner Sunday Silence pinned down on the rail. Just as it appeared Easy Goer would get an edge, Sunday Silence would seemingly push back and accelerate. And so it went for more than an eighth of a mile. Heads up and heads down. As they said back in the day, "a ding dong battle to wire" with Sunday Silence coming out on top by a nose in one of the greatest races of our generation.

Twenty years later a classic battle is not promised. The challenging filly Rachel Alexandra may run off and leave these boys behind. She is the 9-5 morning line favorite after all. Or Mine That Bird may amaze us again if he recreates the last 3/8 of a mile run he gave us in the Derby. If he runs back to that form he may pass the filly so fast that jockey Calvin Borel will barely have time to regret his decision to not ride his Derby horse back in the Preakness.

Don't forget about the Bob Baffert trained-Pioneerof the Nile. He won four convincing races in California before finishing second in the Derby. And you can bet that Nile's jockey, Garret Gomez will not be allowing Mine That Bird a path on the rail this time. In fact, every jockey in the race will be looking for Mine That Bird over their left shoulder as the horses head into the second turn. A dream trip for Bird in the Preakness will be more difficult now that everybody has seen what he can do.

Have you ever heard of trip handicapping? It is the horse players' art of looking for horses who had traffic or any other kind of trouble during the course of race. The thinking is that with an easier trip, the horse could vastly improve in his next race. Insert Freisan Fire here who finished 18th in Kentucky.

While obviously not suffering anything more than superficials scrapes and bruises, some say the Derby favorite looked more like he had played in a rugby game than run a mile and one-quarter race at Churchill Downs. Reports are that he had so much contact during the race that they had to remove the torn fabrics of another horse's running bandages from between Friesan Fire's hoof and shoe. If we see the same Friesan Fire we saw in the gr. 3 Louisiana Derby, the others may only see him from behind at the wire.

Would anybody be shocked if invader Big Drama won? Surpised maybe. But this horse had won five consecutive races before being disqualified from first and placed second in the gr. 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. What about gr. 2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem who was fourth in the Derby with a less than glamorous trip?

You don't think Derby third-place finisher Muskat Man has a chance? Don't forget about General Quarters and his septagenerian co-owner and trainer Charles McCarthy. If that story is not good enough for you, add to it the fact that General Quarters was in a minor traffic accident as his van pulled into Baltimore and got lost on the way to Pimlico.

And there is the jockey Mike Smith angle. The Hall of Fame Smith takes the mount on Mine That Bird after Calvin Borel defected the Bird and ensecure men around the world when he chose to ride the filly. Smith, like Mine That Bird owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen, is a native of Roswell, New Mexico.

I may have seen more than a quarter-million horse races in my lifetime. I've read dozens of books on the subject, studied with some of the most gifted horse players of our time. Don't remember a race with a UFO angle.


Donna M. said...

I do agree that the move to race her against Mine That Bird is very good for horse racing. The fans love to see good horses run. It's been proven over and over. Just last week-end at Remington Park the best 870 yd horses in a while raced. Altho there were only 3 actual horses that ran it still was a very good race.

Brock said...

Anybody who saw Rags To Riches win the 2007 Belmont, or Winning Colors & Genuine Risk win the Derby will agree that the right filly can sure compete with her male counterparts.