From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.
Vic is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for ESPN.com, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.
Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.
(CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE, KY – May 1, 2010, 8:15 pm) There will be a lot of debate in the next two weeks about what happened today in the 136th Kentucky Derby. Super Saver got the best trip, being no further back than about six lengths at any point during the race. Meanwhile, Lookin at Lucky was compromised badly at the start. He’s a horse without any kind of good luck. The past performances will indicate two bad moments for Ice Box.
Calvin Borel was thrilled that he won his third Derby in four years. He displayed euphoria on the ride from the backstretch to the winner’s circle, but was appropriately subdued at the post-race interview. The man who selected Borel to ride was subdued, too, and that wasn’t Todd Pletcher. It was WinStar Farms manager Elliott Walden who recommended him last November.
This was a Kentucky Derby with several fairy-tale endings. Take the good luck of Glen Fullerton, who won $900,000 in a sales promotion. Fullerton had the lone chance to bet $100,000 of the track’s money on any horse and he chose Super Saver. This is one Derby he’ll not forget.
(CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE, KY – May 1, 2010, 2:00 pm) Robby Albarado aboard the 3-5 favorite Hot Dixie Chick tried to avoid the rail, but he couldn’t. Another closer, Buckleupbuttercup, took the long way around and finished fastest to win the Eight Belles Stakes. The program said this was the 59th running of the Eight Belles. I don’t remember what they called it before.
You’d better start re-thinking your Derby picks now. Unless there’s a sudden change in track conditions, it’s unlikely a speed-favoring horse can win. For me, it’ll be switching to horses like Ice Box that I haven’t liked all along. Mission Impazible, Awesome Act and Dean’s Kitten deserve another look.
Each year, I drink a mint julep to celebrate being here. This year I had mine on Millionaire’s Row. There are celebrities there, but I didn’t see them - just a lot of pretty women in fancy hats and men wearing ties. A million dollars doesn’t go very far.
Click 'Continue Reading' or the Blog Title to see another Vic Zast Video Report from Churchill Downs.
(CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE, KY – May 1, 2010, 9:15 am) People in Louisville greet each other on the first Saturday in May by saying, “Happy Derby.” The salutation is shared in the same manner as “Happy Birthday” or Merry Christmas.” That’s why when the weather becomes so sobering it’s a real letdown. Maybe the day will improve in the afternoon to bring smiles to the faces.
The ideal weather, a clever promotional tie-in with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund, a popular horse in Blind Luck and the appearance of Rachel Alexandra in the La Troienne created a situation that caused Churchill Downs to break several records. All-sources wagering on the Oaks was up 55 percent and all-sources wagering on the entire card was up 20 percent. Attendance was 116,046, more than 11 percent than last year.
It appears betting will be strong on the Derby, too. The 136th running appears to be a race that no horse can win. When the two favorites drew inside and outside, they immediately lost support. Now the complicating factor of the rain will cause all sorts of other craziness.
Super Saver remains the betting favorite at 7-1. Lookin at Lucky, undoubtedly the Derby’s most accomplished performer, has inched up to 9-1. Devil May Care is only two points better at 11-1, the same that you’d get for Sidney’s candy if the race went off now.
Click on 'Continue Reading' or the blog title to view a Video from Vic at the Derby.
(CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE, KY – April 30, 2010, 4:00 pm) The weatherman changed some things up for tomorrow. The National Weather Service’s Joe Ammerman pushed back the heavy rains about 12 hours. He’s now predicting they’ll begin around 10:00 am and continue until 2:00 pm before tailing off.
Horseplayers had better plan on picking runners who like the off going because it’s inconceivable that the racing strip will be anything but muddy or sloppy. Churchill Downs drains exceptionally fast, yet not fast enough to avoid a substantial wetness. Disregarding Mine That Bird's victory last May, Smarty Jones was the last horse to win on an off track. Backtalk, who breaks from the 18 post, is the lone son of Smarty Jones in the field.
Minutes after the weatherman ended his news conference, Jess Jackson trekked upstairs to the main media center to face the music. He told turf writers that “She isn’t going to retire,” when questions arose about what’s next for Rachel Alexandra. “She could be ten lengths better than what she was today,” he added. But he had nothing to say about whether or not Calvin Borel will keep the mount.
Click on "continue reading" to watch Vic Zast's Derby weather report from the press box
(CHURCHILL DOWNS, LOUISVILLE, KY – April 30, 2010, 2:10 pm) Rachel Alexandra is probably done racing, now that she’s shown that her will to win has been dulled by inactivity. But if the reigning Horse of the Year is to compete again, it might be without Calvin Borel in the saddle.
Trainer Steve Asmussen has always wanted to use Robby Albarado. But owner Jess Jackson maintained loyalty to Borel, the journeyman who took his charismatic filly to Kentucky Oaks, Preakness, Haskell and Woodward Stakes heights. Whether you think Borel goofed by clutching down hard on his mount when she wanted to run or not, it sure looked like she wanted to go past Be Fair from the start and she wasn’t allowed.
The large Kentucky Oaks crowd was with Rachel Alexandra from the beginning. They cheered vigorously as she entered the paddock, left the paddock, took to the track and strode down the lane to defeat. Nevertheless, Zenyatta now stands alone at the top of the thoroughbred world.