One of the things that I love most about horse racing is that it demands risk. It helps to have ice water in your veins from time to time. Anything I want to say about the 134th Kentucky Derby I need to say now. No one will care after the race. Only what the participants say at 6:00 pm (Est)on Saturday May 3, 2008 will be worth listening to. It will take that special combination of speed and stamina to prevail, as well as plenty of luck. Some folks think the luck factor is the most important of all.
When the race is run my first concern will be that all 19 runners make it home safely. The variables of running at Churchill Downs on Derby Day are amplified. Jockey Paul Niccolo once told me that turning for home in the Derby is like entering a sound tunnel. His horse was 50-1 but it took weeks to wipe the smile off his face. "It was great just to be there," he reminisced.
This year's Derby like most is wide open. Of course there will be a favorite, one horse will get lots of late money, one might drop out before the gates open 48 hours from now, and one horse will no doubt make a huge move in the final eighth of a mile.
The pundits are already spewing wildly. I marvel at how easily some dismiss Big Brown. When Rick Dutrow, his trainer calmly chose post position 20 (granted he had to pick 16th) it was such a "not to worry" smile he flashed. He thinks he has another Spectacular Bid. If the undefeated colt wins from out there, we'll know. Some of us think we already do.
Look for Colonel John to run his race too. Not all horses take to Churchill's "cuppy" surface; he does.
Finally, don't forget the Kentucky Oaks. Tomorrow's filly race is offered in a daily double with the Derby. I think it's one of the best bets in horse racing. With the filly Eight Belles running in the Derby, the Oaks is wide open too. I don't think this filly belongs in the Derby. I certainly have nothing against running a filly in the Derby, it has to be the right one. When I see Big Brown, I'll think of Winning Colors. She, like he, was the right one.