Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Kentucky Derby

Yesterday was derby day, and it was great... Barbaro certainly is an amazing horse. I've got an article from the Washington Post that covers the derby pretty well, so I'll post it here.

Barbaro Breaks Away
Prado Rides Undefeated Colt to Victory by 61/2 Lengths, the Largest Margin in 60 Years

By John Scheinman
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 7, 2006; Page E01

LOUISVILLE, May 6 -- Throughout the Kentucky Derby prep races, jockey Edgar Prado kept his options open regarding who he might ride in the big race. Even after he guided Barbaro to victory in the Florida Derby, Prado said he thought the undefeated colt was a better runner on turf than dirt.

On Saturday, Prado found out Barbaro just might be better on dirt after all. Much better.

Galloping like a powerful machine on the far turn, Barbaro pulled away from one of the deepest Kentucky Derby fields in years, winning America's signature horse race by 6 1/2 lengths, the largest margin since Assault's win in 1946.

Tracking leaders Keyed Entry and Sinister Minister after a brief stumble at the start, Barbaro moved easily to the front when those horses tired at the five-sixteenths pole and effortlessly through the stretch to win in a fast time of 2 minutes 1.36 seconds.

Prado did little more than shake his reins in the stretch as late-running long shots Bluegrass Cat and Steppenwolfer vainly tried to catch up.

Barbaro became the sixth undefeated horse in 132 years to win the Kentucky Derby. For Prado, who rose to stardom in the 1980s riding at Laurel Park and Pimlico, it was his first Derby victory in seven tries.

"I looked back a couple times and saw nobody," Prado said. "The horse up front started dying a little bit. It was just a matter of time before I turned him loose."

Sweetnorthernsaint, the Laurel Park-based horse who received a rush of late betting money to go off as the 5-1 favorite in the field of 20, made a threatening move on the inside on the far turn but lacked his usual power in the stretch and faded to seventh.

Prado rode Barbaro into the winner's circle, pumping his fists at the crowd of 108,065, the second largest in Derby history.

For Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz, 55, who bases most of his horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, the victory vindicated his plans from the beginning of Barbaro's campaign.

The colt was bred to be a star grass runner and won the first three races of his career on the turf, including the Laurel Futurity on Nov. 19. But Matz -- a former star equestrian rider who carried the U.S. flag at the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics -- believed he had a horse that could win the Kentucky Derby.

He took Barbaro to Florida and won the Holy Bull Stakes over a sloppy track and then the Florida Derby on April 1 by a half-length. After the race, Prado said he still wanted to ride Strong Contender in the Blue Grass Stakes before deciding who to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

Much was made in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby of Matz's decision to train Barbaro up to the race off a five-week layoff. No horse had won the Derby off such a long rest since Needles in 1956.

"What can I say?" said a vindicated Matz, the fourth consecutive trainer to win the Derby in his first attempt. "Everybody saw it. They know what he did. We never missed anything in his training. We never wavered on our plan. [Assistant trainer] Peter [Brett] assured me five weeks would not be a problem. There were a lot of good horses today, but it was his race today."

The good horses had trouble keeping up. Keyed Entry, who finished last, broke quickly from the inside and seized the lead from Sinister Minister, the fastest of three runners from the barn of Bob Baffert, and ran through the first half-mile in a sizzling 46.07 seconds.

As the exhausted front-runners fell away on the turn and Barbaro attacked, only Sweetnorthernsaint and Bluegrass Cat made significant challenges to win. Lawyer Ron, who had won six straight races, faded to 12th. The other two Baffert runners, Point Determined and Bob and John, finished ninth and 17th, respectively. Brother Derek, the early consensus favorite, raced wide on both turns and wound up in a dead heat with Jazil for fourth place.

Bluegrass Cat, a forgotten colt who once had been considered among the top 3-year-olds in the country, rebounded from his dismal 21 1/4 -length loss in the Blue Grass Stakes, his final prep for the Derby.

Barbaro is raced by his breeders, Roy and Gretchen Jackson of West Grove, Pa., and the couple had a tremendous day. Besides winning the Derby with Barbaro and finishing sixth with their other entrant, Showing Up, the couple bred the European champion colt George Washington, who earlier in the day won the historic Two Thousand Guineas Stakes at Newmarket in England.

Gretchen Jackson said she had wanted to win the Kentucky Derby since she was a little girl.

"I've personally thought about the Kentucky Derby since Whirlaway [won in 1941]," she said. "As a little girl, I had a picture book about Whirlaway that I just loved, so this is a dream come true." -WP

It was fun to watch. I was up at the farm when it came on, and John and Mary (some of Dean's friends and nice people) came over to watch as well. We all had our bets, but none of us picked the winner. Mary did pick Bluegrass Cat, the longshot, to win; well, the Cat got second, and that's close enough.

Today my sister and I are going back up to Dean's; his friends from Phucket, Cliff and his girlfriend Noi, are supposed to be coming in from Europe today, so it should be good to meet them; I hope to meet them, anyway. They were originally supposed to arrive yesterday, but Dean thinks that Cliff may have gotten it wrong with the time difference when he spoke to him.

I'll write more later.

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming:
WOW--What a Ride!" -anonymous

1 comment:

Soulknitting said... the ending quote. Miss you.