Thursday, May 02, 2013

Will Pitino’s Magic Carpet Ride Continue?

I love professional bodybuilding. I train like one (though lack the genetics or the HGH to become a beast, not that I’d want to) and consider it my “sport” of choice. And the thing with Mr. Olympia—call it the Kentucky Derby of bodybuilding—once a bodybuilder has a formula for success, he usually rattles off several Olympias in a row.

Ronnie Coleman won eight in a row, Lee Haney won eight in a row, Dorian Yates won six in a row, Arnold won six in a row, Jay Cutler (not the Jay Cutler you’re thinking of) won four in five years, and now Phil “The Gift” Heath has won two and counting.

I say this because my 2013 Derby winner is following a formula that worked just a year ago and that’s Goldencents. All season I’ve been on Orb and should he win it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Yet, of all the penultimate Derby preps, Goldencents was the only one who ran a sub-1:50 1 1/8th miles and that sticks out to me as a key indicator that he’s the horse to beat.

I’ve watched a ton of replays the past week. All the contenders have their strengths, and if the clock wasn’t an issue, then maybe you start leaning toward Verrazano’s grit in the face of his early move, or Overanalyze’s nice kick in the Arkansas Derby, or Java’s War dropping in at the quarter pole in the Blue Grass, or Revolutionary’s dual down the stretch with Mylute in Louisiana.

(Footnote, has anyone mentioned that though Pletcher saddles five entering the Derby, that three of his horses all won two Grade 1s and a Grade 2 within the past month? I think we just come to expect that from the Pletcher Industrial Complex.)

Goldencents appears to be the speed in this field. He’s no Bodemeister (but, then again, who is?), but he’s got classy speed like War Emblem, Smarty Jones and Ghostzapper. In other words, he has the type of running style where every race is his race to lose.

Trainer Doug O’Neill used the Santa Anita Derby to propel a relative unknown to Derby stardom a year ago with I’ll Have Another. He wasn’t well known but had all the tools to be a contender.

Since O’Neill has last year’s experience in the can, he knows how to coax the best out of the horse for a Derby win and possibly a Triple Crown run.

Goldencents also benefits from the new Kentucky Derby Points System. The metric systemically eliminates the pure sprinters from the field. The Keyed Entrys, the Trinnibergs, the Join In The Dances, the Big Dramas, the Spanish Chestnuts, those rascally rabbits that have no business going two turns are gone.

All they did was ruin their own mental capacity and clog the front end. Six to seven furlongs into a route they’re toast. Six to seven furlongs in they may have dragged a legitimate front-runner along at too fast a clip opening up the possibility of a Giacomo or Mine That Bird. And for my own mental constitution, I just can’t stomach another one of those.

The horses on the front end in the Derby now will be genuine two-turn pace setters and that’s exactly what Goldencents can and will do. He’s also got the rich-get-richer Karma bomb in his corner.

He’s partially owned by Rick Pitino, who just won the National Championship in college basketball and was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Pitino already saw one of his athletes snap off of cannon bone so for that to happen again would be the universe trying to over-correct itself. If he wins the Derby he better thank Kevin Ware for being the sacrificial virgin at the volcano’s mouth.

Pitino also gets his star player back for another year after having withdrawn from the forthcoming NBA Draft. Like I said, the rich get richer.

Every year there’s a tendency to over think this darn race, this McDonald’s All-American spectacle where most of them are talented but prove to be duds long term with maybe one or two gems.

Goldencents isn’t getting the love because he’s out West and perhaps that’s how O’Neill likes to have it. There’s a lot of good closers in this field, but it will be up to Goldencents and jockey Kevin Krigger to ration that speed and provide little to no window for the bombers to spoil the party.

Pitino brought Louisville one championship in early April. In early May, they’ll have another.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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BallHype: hype it up!

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