SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 27, 2010--The staff was thinking about making a place for Calvin Borel on the HRI Power 10, then remembered he’s three years plus forty.
Without his brilliant assistance, however, it’s unlikely Super Saver could have made it to the top of the HRI Triple Crown Power 10 any other way.
There are other reasons for the colt’s success, of course, such as his affinity for both Churchill Downs and wet racetracks. And, of course, a pedigree that made 10 furlongs within his grasp.
Between the colt, rider, and a trainer who crafted a peak performance in start three off the layoff for the most important challenge any American three-year-old could have, Derby 136 felt good on so many levels, right down to Glen Fullerton's $900,000.
The best line belonged to trainer Eoin Harty, who told Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Most of these guys are on the inside,” trainer Harty said. “Calvin is on the rail. He is on the fence. I tell you, if you can't love Calvin, you just hate life. You'd be better off dead.”
In the spirit of all this bon ami, it was good of the invading Jeremy Noseda to speak about what an honor it is to compete in the “American Kentucky Derby.” You wish he could have had better fortune.
The focus has now shifted from the Derby to Triple Crown chase. Next stop, Baltimore. Will Super Saver repeat? Right now, $100 will get you $250, according to Bodog.com, or you could lay $325 that he won’t.
And as far as Calvin’s prediction goes, that same $100 will get you $475 today for the sweep. Doubters would need to lay $700 to win that same C-note. More on the Preakness, and Triple Crown, next week.
As for Derby preparation, the trend favoring the influence of the Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby continues. The wet conditions appeared to hinder many synthetic horses, those with an obvious preference for slop, such as show finisher Paddy O’ Prado, notwithstanding.
Some observers thought the young Mr. Talamo was in a hurry with Sidney’s Candy. We didn’t see that he had a choice, riding a speed horse from the extreme outside and stalking Conveyance from close range. Neither did trainer John Sadler: “He just wouldn’t relax. He used up all his energy.”
Meanwhile, the genius of Calvin Borel is more than one dimensional rail rider, even as Steve Asmussen noted, “everybody knows what he’s going to do and he does it anyway.”
But no one could have predicted--even the few who thought Super Saver would win Derby 136--that Borel could take his mount that far back off the early pace and out-kick the field late.
Borel has a knack, especially in this race, on this track, for knowing the correct tack, the strategy that will work best. After all, he didn’t need to take Mine That Bird back to last, either. What he did Saturday was quintessential race-riding.
Parenthetically, a caller into a Capital OTB television network show might have had it right Sunday morning when he said: “Move over Pat Day, there’s a new ‘King of Churchill Downs’.”
In terms of Borel’s ability to relax his mount from a position uncharacteristically far back, the caller had it right. Only a jockey with the ability to communicate with his mount through the reins can achieve unusual results on horseback.
Maybe Shoemaker should make room for Borel, too.
More than the horse, or the future first-ballot Hall of Fame trainer who finally won the Derby in his 10th attempt, Borel was the impetus of this feel-good Derby, moving even the “Sports Reporters,” where horseracing normally is not spoken, to comment favorably:
“Yesterday reminded you of the glory days the sport once enjoyed,” said Mike Lupica.
“I can’t get over a trainer who was 0-for-24 and kept coming back for more,” added Mitch Albom. “It was like the Bills finally winning a Super Bowl,” Lupica replied.
Said Michael Smith: “My favorite part was the guy jumping up and down because he just won $900,000. That’s what this race is all about.”
The Kentucky Derby is about many things. Mostly, it’s about magic. Or, as the great essayist Bill Nack said in one of his narrations about the Derby horses on Saturday:
“Twenty fur coats wrapped around a score of imponderables.”
The HRI Triple Crown Power 10, Week 14:
1. Super Saver (36): Perfect preparation, pluperfect handling and all the requisite tools, a colt in the right place at the right time in more ways than one. As far as a Triple Crown sweep, he’s the only one eligible. But first things first. And, just for the record, I prefer crab cakes broiled, with a squeeze of lemon, and a tangy, homemade tartar sauce.
2. Lookin at Lucky (26): For trainer Bob Baffert, it turned out to be Plan B: “Screwed.” Following his Santa Anita Derby debacle and Baffert’s television promise that, whatever happens, “he won’t get fired,” a rider change is in order just to change the karma. Another remarkable effort equaling zero. But this one was not Garrett Gomez’s bad.
3. Ice Box (17): Can’t argue with those who thought he was best. The trip was horrendous and not the fault of young Jose Lezcano. Excellent preparation by Nick Zito who, after owner Robert LaPenta cools out, should get his wish re: the colt’s next start. Coming back in a fortnight after six weeks of hard training and an enervating effort is not a high percentage move. Take advantage of Zito’s Belmont karma.
4. Paddy O'Prado (16): Neither can we strenuously argue with those who believed this colt was best. Still was going strong at the end of 10 furlongs and perhaps should have been second except for possible pilot error, his earlier difficult trip notwithstanding. Connections inclined to run in either the Preakness or Belmont, but not both. Pedigree and spacing says Belmont; running style, Preakness. Tough call.
4. Dublin (16): Once again he didn’t get up but this time there were extenuating circumstances. Steadied in close quarters early, he settled, made a sustained, bold move while very wide on the final turn and understandably tired late. The turn-back, a fast strip, smaller field and D. Wayne’s Preakness karma all good reasons for continuing on the trail.
6. Noble's Promise (12): Stayed on very well for a horse whose pedigree is on the short side. He was carried into Lookin At Lucky in the early going, was a tad anxious, yet made an excellent move to take the lead into the stretch, then battled with Super Saver, who had him outmatched on pedigree. Again showed his class in a highly competitive effort. Coming back in two weeks might be a bit much.
6. Caracortado (12): Won’t need no stinking graded earnings to break into this. He’s fresh, has won on dirt, and is training very well. Gained a national following with his victory in the Robert B. Lewis Memorial and has the right running style should the Preakness attract sufficient speed which, at the moment, seems unlikely.
8. Make Music for Me (10): Class is a wonderful thing at this level. Lacking a national reputation as does his trainer, Alexis Barba, acquitted himself well in Southern California before trying Midwest dirt. And despite his apparent quality going in, proved a pleasant surprise with his fourth-place Derby finish. Because of Lucky’s troubles in the Santa Anita Derby, this guy’s rough trip went virtually ignored.
9. Sidney's Candy (9): Back in California for some R & R. Caught between a rock and a wide draw in Kentucky, the dice came up snake eyes as the rains that began a week before the Derby continued right up until about 30 minutes before the race. Unable to finish strongly in his wet pre-Derby trial, he was no better under similar conditions on race day.
10. Pleasant Prince (4): Did well to finish third in the Derby Trial, a useful harbinger of Derby form, and was beaten a dirty nose by Ice Box in the Florida Derby after showing promise in the Fountain of Youth previously. His style should fit the conditions at Pimlico, providing he’s not a bit over the top at this point. The speed-at-Pimlico angle, like the “tight turns,” is overblown.