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The day after

And on the eighth day, he rested.

No, not the Man Upstairs. Although it is Sunday, I'm talking about me. It has been a long and draining yet enjoyable week-plus here in Louisville, but I am ready to get the heck out of Dodge.

Ah, but there's things to do. Pack, for one. Here at the Extended Stay America, we do our own dishes (yes, there's a kitchenette) and throw our own garbage. Yeah, Mom, I made my bed, too. For the first time in my life, I'm actually doing a load of laundry. Matter of fact, I'm sitting in the laundry room right now, watching the sun set and the dryer spin. Pretty darn exciting, huh? Now, in an orderly fashion, let's all line up for the life of a sportswriter.

A week hardly goes as fast as it does before the Kentucky Derby. It seems like it only just began, and now it's over. Big Brown ran like a really, really good horse; time will tell if he can be called a great one.

Mike Gathagan, the best media guy I have ever dealt with anywhere in any sport, provided a list of new shooters willing to take on Big Brown in the Preakness May 17: Behindatthebar, El Gato Malo, Giant Moon, Yankee Bravo, Kentucky Bear, Stevil and Tres Borrachos. All together now...."Who?"

Behindatthebar won the Lexington April 19. El Gato Malo won the San Rafael. Giant Moon won the Count Fleet, and Yankee Bravo won the California Derby. Kentucky Bear and Stevil were 3-4 behind Monba and Cowboy Cal in the Blue Grass; Monba and Cowboy Cal ran 20th and ninth in the Derby.

Only one Derby horse is considering the Preakness, Recapturetheglory, a chance as remote as my suddenly waking up 6-foot-3 with a head full of hair. Talk about respect. You have to go all the way back to 1980 to find a time when the Derby produced only one Preakness horse other than the winner.

Then there's Harlem Rocker, unbeaten in three starts who probably doesn't belong, but is owned by Frank Stronach, who also owns Pimlico. 'Nuf said.

Bottom line: I'm glad I already booked my hotel for New York. Big Brown may be sitting on a Triple Crown, given his immense talent and the lack of anyone else even close. At this stage, it would seem the only way Big Brown can be beaten is by beating himself.

Standing amid the crowd in section 316 for the race, I didn't see the filly Eight Belles break down. It really cast a pall over what should have been a terrific day. She ran so well, and did it within herself; that wasn't the reason she suffered a fatal injury. Neither was the track, no matter what the synthetic track loyalists will say. Much like humans, it was just her time. Horses break down, but it is extremely rare to do it galloping out, a quarter-mile past the finish, and break both front legs in the process. Even Larry Bramlage, the most well-regarded vet in the business for three decades, said he had never seen anything like it.

Two hours after Eight Belles was put down, trainer Larry Jones sat in the press box, choking back tears and stopping a time or two to share his thoughts on her race, her career, her life. It was a monumentally classy and difficult thing to do. I stopped by to see Larry this morning, again offer my condolences and thank him for his post-race visit, six floors above the track. It wasn't like it was just on his way out.

"I keep looking in her stall and she ain't in there, so, yeah, I know she ain't comin' back," Jones said today. "Maybe God thought we had her good and ready for him. I have a lot of faith in that. He let Eight Belles run well, and He put her away from most of the people when she fell. He's gonna use it for good things somehow, but I sure don't know what it is or why He had to do it this way. One thing I know for sure is God does not make mistakes. There's a reason for this."

It was the second straight year Jones finished second in the Derby, doing it in 2007 with the colt Hard Spun. As for his impression of Big Brown, Jones said, "I'd just as soon see him be the next Triple Crown winner. We might as well let our filly go out in a blaze of glory."

The dryer is just about done (let's hope the clothes are, too), and I still gotta pack. 6 a.m. flight Monday. I never got up before 10 for a class in college, but can you believe my airfare was half price leaving at that time rather than Sunday night? Sure hope the Gazette bean counters are watching.

Now, about that $2 for laundry ....

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May 6, 2008
12:30 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Phil, I love horse racing, but this track thing drives me nuts. Can't they all pick one surface: dirt or synthetic? If synthetic does prove to reduce breakdowns, shouldn't all tracks go to it? Trying to handicap dirt versus synthetic is hard.

May 6, 2008
8:49 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I agree that it is extremely difficult for people to handicap horses going from synthentic to dirt and vice versa. It's unfortunate that something tragic ever has to happen, let alone on the biggest day racing has. There was a recent study done that showed almost no difference in the number of catastrophic injuries on dirt vs. synthetic tracks. It is a sad but accepted risk of the sport, much like auto racing, where drivers and fans know what can happen on any given day, racing or qualifying. Personally, I'd prefer to see training done on synthetic tracks, but racing done on conventional dirt.

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