The Brock Talk

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Preakness Rides To Remember

Another rail-hugging victory by jockey Calvin Borel aboard Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands has riding accolades again being directed at the popular Cajun rider and deservedly so. But with the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) less than two weeks away and a full field of 14 possible for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the pressure will again be on Borel to flash his navigational brilliance in Baltimore when he steps aboard Super Saver May 15.

Super Saver is now the co-leader along with Sidney' Candy in the TBA 3-Year-Old Standings sponsored by OCD Pellets.

Not that the pressure seems to bother Borel. It was he, by the way, that declared a Triple Crown for Super Saver on national television during the winner's circle celebration following the Derby. It was also Borel a year ago, who stepped off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in a move defiant of pressure. But as they've been saying in Louisiana for years, "dat pressuh doan bodder "Boo" (aka Calvin Borel) and he and Rachel Alexandra rolled to a Preakness win.

A well planned, mistake free and well executed ride in the Preakness may be good enough for another Preakness win for Borel - as long as Super Saver is good enough and ol' Mr. Bad Racing Luck stays away. But should he be called upon for another "Bo-Rail" riding feat for the win, and pulls it off, it seemed appropriate to recall perhaps three of the greatest rides of Preakness past - just in case we have to compare.

Ron Turcotte - Secretariat, 1973
In 1973 Secretariat had just won the Kentucky Derby in patient come-from-off-the-pace fashion, set a track record in the processand speculation began of a possible Triple Crown. The pressure was beginning to mount for jockey Ron Turcotte in the Preakness.

The pressure continued for Turcotte shortly after the break of the Preakness when it appeared that Secretariat was having some trouble finding his stride or getting a hold of the track. But Turcotte settled "Big Red" into a seemingly comfortable position along the rail in last as they passed the grandstand for the first time.

Suddenly (and I mean in an instant), Secretariat found his stride and that's where Turcotte's piloting skills and quick thinking came into play. Heading into the Clubhouse turn, few riders would swing out from the rail and suddenly go three-wide around the turn to pass slower horses. Most riders would have been content to keep their mount on the rail and easily gallop behind the team of preceding runners and wait for a hole to open or pass to the outside down the straight backstretch.

But Turcotte steered Secretariat just to the right and outside of the horses in front of him just before the left handed turn, only to feel Secretariat begin to pass horses and then inhale them as he began running faster and faster with more than three-quarters of a mile still left to run. Other riders might panic and fight the apparent runaway Secretariat. That's when Turcotte made perhaps his second winning decision. "I wanted to slow him down," Turcotte would say later, "but he wanted to go on. So I figured... ....if he wants to go on, I'm not going to argue with him. He's pretty big."

Secretariat never slowed a step and with Turcotte now just a passenger, he hit the wire three lengths in front of Sham in track record time according to the Daily Racing Form chart.

The official time on the infield tote board lit up to 1:55.0, a full second slower than Cananero II's 1:54.0 in the Preakness two years earlier. But the track clocker had caught Secretariat in 1:54-2/5 and two Daily Racing Form clockers had timed him in an identical 1:53-2/5. The official time was listed at 1:54-2/5 everywhere but Daily Racing Form, which also published their time in the official chart.

Eddie Delahoussaye - Risen Star, 1988
In 1988 D.Wayne Lukas had just won his first Kentucky Derby with the front running filly Winning Colors with jockey Gary Stevens aboard.

Woody Stephens, the Hall of Fame trainer of fast-closing Derby runner-up Forty Niner, rued the fact that Winning Colors had been conceded an uncontested lead from the start in the Derby and held it for a neck victory.

Stephens vowed things would be different in the Preakness – that Forty Niner would strongly contest or even take the lead. “I may be last, but she'll be next-to-last,” Stephens was widely quoted as saying.

Forty Niner drew post No. 4, Winning Colors No. 5 for the Preakness. When the gates opened, Pat Day on Forty Niner established inside position, with Gary Stevens and Winning Colors immediately outside. Day took a wide path, forcing Winning Colors to go even wider. The two horses bumped several times down the backstretch while Day andStevens were both off of what they considered to be a "dead rail."

Meanwhile, Eddie Delahoussaye on Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Risen Star, apparently recognized the battling jockeys ahead of him as he stalked them down the Pimlico backstretch. Delahoussaye saw the big hole inside, disregarded the advice to stay off the slow rail, and glided through the inside path passing the battling Winning Colors and Forty Niner with ease and rolled to a victory in the Preakness.

Honorable mention goes to jockey Angel Cordero Jr. on Brian's Time who followed Delahoussaye's inside path to get up for second over Winning Colors in third. Forty Niner was seventh.

After the race, Stevens said, "At about the half-mile pole, I saw Eddie (Delahoussaye) coming up on Risen Star and it was obvious then that Pat wasn't concerned with anybody getting through or maybe even winning the race. I've said it many times – as religious as Pat Day is, he threw out his Bible at the half-mile pole in that race."

Jeremy Rose - Afleet Alex, 2005
More than 20 years later, Afleet Alex had just finished third as one of the favorites in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, less than a length behind long shot winner Giacomo. Following the Derby, jockey Jeremy Rose accepted the responsibility for the loss saying that he did not ride his best race and may have cost Afleet Alex the Derby.

Going into the Preakness, the racing public had made Afleet Alex the favorite and eyes were on Jeremy Rose at Pimlico.

Just before the half-mile pole, Rose took Afleet Alex into a crowed group tiring front runners and was forced to stop the horse's momentum. But just as soon as he stopped, Afleet Alex started rolling again round the far turn and they had the leading Scrappy T in their sites and pounced on him like a jaguar chasing a slow pig. Just as the two began to turn for home and Rose began to pass on the outside, Scrappy T suddenly veered to the right, slamming into Afleet Alex and nearly dropping him as Rose was thrown from the saddle. But in that instant when Afleet Alex jumped backed into stride, Rose somehow managed to stay balanced and aboard and swung back into the stirrups and was again riding before most could comprehend what had happened.

Before anyone could take a breath after gasping in anticipation of the wreck at the top of the Pimlico stretch, Afleet Alex and Jeremy Rose were back in stride and well on their way to one of the more amazing Preakness victories of all time.

Editorial Note: The Brock Talk will be the guest handicapper this week on handicapping the Lone Star Derby (gr. 3).

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