Perhaps it has more to do with Ray Lewis. I’m sorry, Pope Ray. Ray Lewis the pious, God-touter, who does the same tiresome, narcissistic dance before every game, tears up a section of sod, throws it in the air, bows down in the center of the field with cameras all around him to watch him pray. Where is all this during a loss? People need to remember this is the same guy who was arrested for his satellite involvement in a double homicide nearly 13 years ago. His obstruction of justice is nicely chronicled here.
So Baltimore advances, the city that plays host to the fabled Preakness Stakes, a race won by Dale Romans two years ago, a race that catapulted him to the upper tier of conditioners. Yeah, he won the Dubai World Cup before, a paycheck that sets him up for life and allows his kids to go to college for nothin’. He’s had Derby starters, namely Sharp Humor in 2006 and Paddy O’Prado in 2010. But until he won the Preakness with Shackleford, Romans hadn’t blown up. That 2011 win sparked a career year in 2012 that ultimately saw him rewarded with the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer. 119 votes to Todd Pletcher’s 87.
Bob Baffert had 35 votes, Chad Brown 2, Bill Mott 2, Jamie Ness 2, Doug O’Neill 2, Steve Asmussen 1, and Ian Wilkes 1.
It’s interesting, no? O’Neill won the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness with champion colt I’ll Have Another and got just two votes. Ian Wilkes won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Whitney and received one. Steve Asmussen, who found himself out of the spotlight for the second straight year earned one. Pletcher’s dominance at Saratoga alone merits 87 votes. Supposedly one of the best, if not the best, meet in the country. He looked like Randall Cunningham in Techmo Bowl.
I’ve never even heard of Jamie Ness. He led all trainers in wins with 396 competing on the oft-derided Mid-Atlantic circuit. This goes to show how few people get credit in the sport of horse racing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has never heard of Jamie Ness. And I follow this game for living. Shoot, I even spent time on the Maryland circuit and never heard of him. If you’re not competing in the Derby or New York you’re patently ignored.
It’s illustrative of how dysfunctional and disorganized horse racing is. It’s not a complaint, more an observation. That’s why I like the Derby Points System. It’s organized. The Road to the Roses doesn’t feel as clunky and disjointed to me anymore.
I love seeing Shanghai Bobby in second place though he’s out-earned everyone by a factor of two. It’s unsettling that Pletcher has six of the Top 37 horses, but by his standards perhaps that is low. Still, out of those 37, there are 25 different trainers on the list. Pletcher, O’Neill, Baffert, Mark Casse, and Ken McPeek are the only ones with multiple horses. Perhaps we’re reaching a more equitable distribution of horses. Then again, probably not.
Getting back to Ness, there is something inherently wrong when a guy can be the nation’s leading trainer by wins and receive just two votes. Doug O’Neill deserves ten votes alone for yanking I’ll Have Another out of the Belmont Stakes the day before going for the Triple Crown.
It’s been quite a week and I’m about ready to wrap it up. We’ve had fake girlfriends, Dopestrong the Ray Freakin’ Lewis beating my Pats.
Onward, please, onward.
Written by Brendan O'Meara.