Bluegrass Blues
Lynn McDowell


At the current injury rate, the only horse we'll have running the 124th Derby will be Souvenir Copy, who as of this writing is still a "maybe." This might be the first Derby in which stamina refers to which horse can make it to May 2nd and the starting gate without chipped knees, shin splints, fevers and psychotic breaks. Never mind the finish line.

And alas, the emperor is STILL naked. And loving it. There is absolutely no way this can not be an interesting Derby with a surprise ending. Almost all the really great horses have dropped out of the running, which leaves us with a handful of really good horses and a whole lot of numbers to crunch. So...let's get started. We've an emperor to clothe.

There is at least one reason why every horse running CAN and absolutely CAN'T win. But we won't go through the looking glass until May 3rd, when the hindcasting begins. Looking strictly at dosage indexes, Parade Ground or Basic Trainee should take the trophy. Classic Cat, Chilito and Yarrow Brae are all under 2.0 also. Basic Trainee has a center of distribution of .31 and is 3-2-1 for wins and has matured nicely. Not a bad horse all things considered, and with Valesquez up, who knows?? That would sure ease the Gary vs. Jerry debate, which would almost be worth some pretty red roses.

What are the experts saying? Not those experts, silly...they're all going for Indian Charlie or Halory Hunter. I'm referring to my dogs and Helen the Psychic, of course.

But alas, Helen was out of town. She looked into that crystal ball last week and saw the sheriff coming so decided to hoof it on out of there. Athena the Psychic had taken her post position. I asked her to pick a number - 1 through 16 - and to give me a name. She hadn't a clue what this was about and didn't care, as long as she got her $10. We chatted about the weather and without looking down at the piece of paper, wrote the numbers: 8, 12 and 9, circling the 9. "Lee," she said. Lee? The only 'Lee's in the game, I'm thinking, are Jerry BaiLEY and Indian CharLIE. "OK," I pressed her..."I need another name." And she then non-sequitored, "Never second-guess yourself. I see 'Cody' or 'Cory' written on the wall." And then she made my $10 disappear. The handicapping pros will feel vindicated....Corey Nakatani of course is up on Halory Hunter.

On to the dogs, who charge by the bone, not the reading. My old- guy-dog refused: "I don't handicap. Everyone knows the emperor is naked," he quipped. The baby- girl-dog, aka, Her Badness, however, was up to the challenge. Interestingly, she picked the numbers: 8, 12 & 13. She denied consulting with Athena. So.... these numbers represent post positions or what?? Dunno.

What I do know is that Favorite Trick is the one great horse we still have in the field. You don't beat Skippy for Horse of the Year if you're dog-meat. He's won 9 of his 10 starts, and if you believe the Tamtulia Myth, by all rights this race is his. (And there's that darn number 9 again.) Sure, he was bred a sprinter, but sure looked like he had some router in him when he lost. He held on longer than his critics predicted. He was definitely sour grapes and didn't like the taste one bit. Nor was he intimidated, unlike Free House last year, who just couldn't quite bring himself to pass the Alpha male. No testosterone problems with the Trick.....he kept reaching right up until the finish.

So....maybe Mott isn't delusional after all. He's always played this horse close to the vest. Remember? He was totally mum before the Florida Derby and Favorite Trick trampled on his pedigree all the way to the finish line at Gulfstream. Alright, so his DI is 4.6 and his CD is over 1.00, but look at Pat Day's last Derby win...was there ever a more unlikely Derby winner than Lil ET in '92?? (For Criminy's sake; a blacksmith paid $1500 for him!) If ever there was a good reason to except the rule...

So...I'm heeding Athena's advice and will go with my "hunch." Favorite Trick's my guy. As for who will place? Call me a sentimental fool but I just adore Artax and McCarron.

Who'll show? Who cares? Let the Indian and the Hunter duke it out.....the emperor's gone out for more bourbon.


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Ó 1998 First Electronics Rights


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