But what if there were a pool of 20 darts and I got seven? Thirteen throws left to be fanned out by as many 13 other throwers, perhaps fewer. If I win, can I feel good about it because I had seven good throws or because I kept seven other people from throwing? There's only so much pie. Should I eat more than one slice so that someone gets none?
Such is the Catch-22 of being Todd Pletcher. His 0-for-24 Kentucky Derby record is like a callous, I doubt he even feels it anymore. But do you want to win the Derby because you took seven throws at the bull’s eye, had more than a third of the field of potential winners and won by shear numbers versus shear ability?
Hold on. This just got more interesting. It just came to me. Let’s do this. Here’s Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby, here are all 24 of his entrants:
Join in the Dance (2009)
Cowboy Cal (2008)
Any Given Saturday (2007)
Circular Quay (2007)
Sam P. (2007)
Cowtown Cat (2007)
Scat Daddy (2007)
Bluegrass Cat (2006)
Keyed Entry (2006)
Coin Silver (2005)
Flower Alley (2005)
Pollard's Vision (2004)
Wild Horses (2002)
Invisible Ink (2001)
Balto Star (2001)
More Than Ready (2000)
Graeme Hall (2000)
Who wins the Pletcher Derby, the Thrust for the Thorns?
I give the nod Bluegrass Cat. He was rock steady and lost to a world beater in Barbaro. Second place? Flower Alley followed by a dead-heat with Circular Quay and More Than Ready.
But what’s this? Oh my God! Pletcher somehow managed to lose this Derby! Didn’t see that coming.
Out of his legions of three-year-olds, who went on to do anything of note? Bluegrass Cat won the Haskell, as did Any Given Saturday. More Than Ready turned out to be a slick sprinter. When your stable is so heavily geared to the Triple Crown (since, let’s be honest, his clients want to win the Derby as much as he does, so naturally he has a lot of sophomores) you’re bound to have some flickering candles that do nothing but eat grass and play spades.
So, will you be rooting for Pletcher this year? I mean, rooting for him is like rooting for mold. No matter how many times you kill it, it always comes back in some manifestation.
Eskendereya seems to be his best shot at winning this stinkin’ race. He even said it in a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference.
“He has all the tools that you would like to see,” Pletcher said, “and you know the things that’s exciting about him is the one thing we've been very confident all along is that he wants to run the distances, the classic races. I don’t see a mile and a quarter or even a mile and a half in this for him, he just has tremendous natural stamina. You know he's physically a strong horse, he holds up to his races well, he eats well. You can sometimes if you get a couple of races into a campaign you'll start to see horses start to lose a little condition, a little weight and he's thriving on it. So yeah, I think you know from all those standpoints he's got all the right tools.”
Esky officially lost.
But that has more to do with the recent history of impressive Wood Memorial triumphs than anything else. You’d have to go back 11 years to find a Wood-Derby winner and that was Fu-Peg. Before that? Glad you asked. Pleasant Colony in 1981. I was just 10 months old with no eyebrows or fingernails or hair and looked like a Martian.
Though he has an attrition edge, wearing down spots in the field, this is quite a strong group to contend with. Lookin’ at Lucky, if Garrett Gomez can put away his piston fists, seems a threat. Not to mention Nick Zito’s bullets-in-the-hole with Florida Derby winner Ice Box and bare-knuckle fighter Jackson Bend.
What it comes down to is satisfaction. Can you be truly satisfied knowing you had seven throws while thirteen others had just one? I’ve got a feeling that Pletcher won’t give a hoot.
Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.
Brendan O’Meara blogs about horse racing here at HRI and at The Carryover. He also blogs about narrative nonfiction and his book project “Six Weeks in Saratoga” at The Blog Itself. His Web site is www.brendanomeara.com.