I would like to say I have a favorite in the Kentucky Derby, but I haven’t. Thoroughbred racing is losing much of its appeal these days, and it has not been gradual. For one thing, what the Churchill Downs hierarchy has done to the great old American treasure is painful, beginning with….
“The Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum Brands.”
When this great spectacle has to be introduced like a two-bit golf tournament, it is insulting. To hell with “presenting” such an American treasure, as though it needs to be propped up. THIS IS THE KENTUCKY DERBY, the one and only!!
In my time, I have been to the Derby 56 times, and the last time convinced me I didn’t care to go again. All the marble, and the wide open spaces, and the glitz, and the cold atmosphere made me feel I’d invaded somebody’s parlor. And don’t tell me that slot machines are going to be the saving grace of horse tracks. That, too, is insulting.
The sad thing is, there has been hardly any rising fever about the Derby this year. The press has been so indifferent, there has been no throbbing favorite. And for the first time in years, I haven’t been able to get excited enough to settle on one, either. If I were a hard boot horseman, I guess I’d go for Dunkirk, but I usually look for a long shot. Few years ago, 30 writers were polled on their winning choice. I went for Thunder Gulch, mainly because he was in D. Wayne Lukas’s stable and D.Wayne’s SECOND choice. He had Timber Country, and even wore a Timber Country cap. I was the only one of the 30 who picked Thunder Gulch, by now a productive sire. Timber Country? I have no idea where he is.
So, you have the hard boot choice. On the sentimental side, I go for General Quarters, bred, owned and trained by a former high school principal. Only horse in his stable. Don’t laugh. General Quarters won the Blue Grass Stake, and you know what they say in sports—he knows how to win in Kentucky. He’ll go off at about 12-1, but I see no other overwhelming prospect in the field. The owner of this one-horse stable is Tom McCarthy. Remember the luck o’ the Irish!
But anyway, it just isn’t the same this year, for some reason or another. Well, at least I got your mind off the NFL draft. What a bore!