Six weeks to the Derby. Spent the last two days straight looking into a couple of the probable long-shots for the race. I was getting a little agitated sitting here at my desk, no, bored is more like it. No excitement in this at all. I had enough of that and I ended it. So I turned my attention onto constructing another ‘Breeding Stats” article with South Bend. Talk about boredom. This is certainly not my kind of handicapping day. I need action. I need to look at some serious race horses and turn this boredom back into passion. I need to do my thing, write something fun and get some fierce and monster horses in front of me. Immediately! Where are they this year? Nadal and Maxfield, you are missed severely. These “left-overs” are too boring to even write about. I just sat here looking at a blank Word document with only a Title for about 30 minutes. That's it. Done.
So, I rose from my desk to find my old iPod. I then proceeded to spend about another fruitless hour trying to figure out how to get the Bluetooth Wifi Speaker Contraption set up for the first time since I purchased it about 5 months ago. By this time, I am completely flustered with the entire escapade and about ready to grab my keys and bolt for the door just to get out.
But where can I go? There’s a huge Covid Cloud out there and my little world is closed for business. There is nothing to do but simply get back to those iPod wires and back to the horses. After another half hour, I finally found that elusive tiny button that “syncs” the music to the speakers. Could they make it any smaller? Finally. Success!!
The first song came on…
Ah keep your eyes on the road
and your hands upon the wheel. Keep your eyes on the road
and your hands upon the wheel. Yeah, we're going to the Roadhouse gonna have a REAL… good-time.”
The Doors – Roadhouse Blues. I haven’t heard that song in years. That’ll get ya going. So, I lit a cigarette as I listened and sat back down with a little bit of fire in me.
Back to South Bend… nope….try Authentic…nope, that’s not working for me either…
“Big wheels keep on turning, carry me home to see my kin Singing songs about the Southland I miss Alabama once again and I think it's a sin, it is.
Sweet home Alabama Where the skies are so blue Sweet home Alabama Lord, I'm coming home to you”
Now, I’m off my chair and dancing around, smoking another cigarette. I’m feeling good about now and thoughts start to drift to “my” old powerful horses with these songs. Those past horses that held that incredible fire that is just nowhere to be found now. I need to see them, I need to watch them run and get that fire back myself. This year has been such a dud that I am sure it all has affected you just the same. But all you need is some good music, some replays on the big screen, a nice glass of your favorite spirits and a cigarette if you smoke. That fire will come back. And come back quick.
Most times when I sit down to write an article, I type out a title first and let it take me wherever it wants to go. I deleted that first title that I stared at forever as soon as the next song came on. I'm having a little party over here all by myself. Wish you could join me…
"Well, I've got to run to keep from hiding and I'm bound to keep on riding And I've got one more silver dollar But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no Not gonna let 'em catch the Midnight Rider…”
Its all starting to come into focus. That feeling. Those horses.
First order of business…construct new title. This is something I need to do. Desperately.
What I need are those horses that gave me that feeling before each and every Kentucky Derby. The ones who showed brilliance, the ones who ran like bad-asses, just like these songs. I could see them. And for the next 5 hours, I watched them all run. Each one of them. All of their Pre-Derby races. Their maidens. Their wins and their defeats. These were the guys that pushed me. They were the ones who gave me that passion that I’m looking for now.
These guy need to be remembered and honored. Some didn’t even make the Derby, or even if they did, they didn’t make much noise while they were there. But before that Churchill race, they did, and in some cases, truly came into their own afterwards. They were the ones that got my heart pumping and gave me that incredible anticipation that I look forward to every year. The Maiden to the Allowance to the Prep to the Derby. It's like the sunshine on a Sunday morning. Majestic.
I need to write about them for my sanity. I need to get that feeling back… It's the only thing that will kick start this Derby...
And the next song... I'm just gonna sway in my chair and sing out loud...Happy!
"There is a rose in Spanish Harlem
a red rose up in Spanish Harlem
With eyes as black as coal
That looks down in my soul
And starts a fire there and then I lose control
I have to beg your pardon
I’m going to pick that rose
And watch her as she grows, in my garden
There is a rose in Spanish Harlem…”
I am now in the zone…
Derby Year 2010
It was October of 2009 when I knew, as soon as this race was over, that Jackson Bend was going to be my catalyst for the year. He was a sprinter and I knew it but that didn’t make a bit of difference to me. Every time that horse ran, there was a certain excitement that cannot be put into words. He was just a little guy, quick as lightening and all heart. He captured all second places in his next 3 Derby preps strictly with his determination but he was never going to be a player at 10f. Still, he was everything during his prime.
Derby Year 2013
We had only 3 chances to watch the brilliance of this horse and each performance was greater than the next. Undefeated 2 year old who would never get a chance to run at 3. He was arguably destined to be the best of the entire crop of 2012 but he fractured a splint bone in his front right leg. After 7 months recovery time, long after Orb had already won the Derby, he came back to train but the injury was still nagging. He never raced again but those first three races depicted a Champion in the making and caused many hearts to be broken.
Derby Year 2013
After Algorithms, the new early Derby hotshot who stepped in was Vyjack. Another undefeated 2 year old who debuted as a 3 year old with yet another win in the Jerome Stakes. He was a true bad-ass of a horse and he completely went all out in the Gotham Stakes. An incredibly exciting horse to watch but had nothing to give over 9f. He became a tired horse after being forced into a 12f race, but there is no doubt, Vyjack had that fire prior to the Derby that gives everyone a glimpse into the magic of the thoroughbred horse and why we love them so much.
Derby Year 2014
There is simply not enough space on this entire website to write about this magnificent horse and nothing I could ever say could do him justice. The love affair began with that maiden race. That is all one would need to watch to know what this guy had above all the others that year. He proved himself over and over again and he demolished the Derby winner California Chrome that year in the San Antonio. What a race he ran. But it was his maiden race that stood out above all the other fantastic performances that he gave us in his short time. It was the prelude to all that was to come. He was perfection.
Derby Year 2014
The only thing that could have turned my head in a direction away from Shared Belief that year was the handsomeness of Honor Code. In my eyes, it had been many years since a horse as striking as him graced the race track. That trophy had always belonged to Rock Hard Ten until the beauty of Honor Code took center stage. Another who failed to see the Churchill track in 2014 but came back to win the Met Mile and the Whitney in grand fashion. His son, Honor A.P., is hauntingly the same and that familiar feeling is all too real.
Derby Year 2016
He was a quiet sorta guy early on, grabbing a couple first and seconds prior to the Derby - with a couple of clunkers thrown in there too. But it was his determined third place performance in the Arkansas Derby that captured all attention. That horse ran one heck of a fast race and he was one of only three going into that years Derby with an incredible amount of displayed speed. Unfortunately, the 10f was nowhere near his wheelhouse, but that certainly pales in comparison to what he accomplished thereafter. Speed is one thing, sustaining is another. Huge lessons gained directly through him.
Derby Year 2017
Between the gorgeous optics of those overseas races in the way that they film them and the power of those horses that you can feel in the pit of your stomach, to the magnificence of the breeding of the one who won that race, you can't help but fall into a crazy trance over this horse. Everything about him screamed champion, but the guy wanted no parts of the mud. Throughout his career, when Thunder doesn't want to run, he lets everyone know. But when he's in the mood, look out. Nothing is running past him down that stretch. Such an exciting horse to watch.
Another incredibly bred horse from Ireland who smashed every surface and traveled everywhere without a flinch. Anyone who wasn't completely taken by his performance in the UAE Derby must have had blinders on. This guy, a stamina-laden monster, traveled wire to wire on that Meydan track. And another who would only care to stay in his stall than run on a sloppy track in Kentucky. Justify was the luckiest horse in the world the day the rains came and knocked his only competition out of the race. This was one special horse. Magnificent sire now.
Code of Honor
An email from Brian basically sent me into a tailspin over this horse. Just like Shared Belief and Le Vent Se Leve, it was the maiden race coupled with his breeding that foretold everything that was to come with this horse. The second he crossed that finish line I was ready to place a nice hefty futures bet, this was literally 7 months before the Derby. One of those rare occasions that saw its way all the way through to his valiant second in the Derby. We have yet to see the best of him, he is truly a superior race horse.
I needed that very badly. Seems to have done the trick but it also showed me how most of "my guys" absolutely NEVER pan out for the Derby.