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Happy Birthday To You

Here’s a belated birthday wish to you, our three-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Sorry I wasn’t able to send a card or a cake to the 35,000 of you that all turned three on January 1 for the basis of racing. Instead of such sentimental signs of affections, I’d like to pass along some thoughts, ideas and warnings as the Road to the Roses finds itself busy with nomads and knights, alike.

 

Let’s get the ball rolling with first, an apology. This is for the three-year-old phenom, who bursts on the scene with a triple-digit speed figure going a route of ground in a maiden victory or shows a strong, out of character finish in one of the early Derby preps.

 

I’m sorry, but fans, pundits, owners and/or trainers so quickly forget how hard it is to keep a maturing horse healthy, as it skyrockets from the maiden ranks to stakes winner. The Kentucky Derby is no place for a fast riser. So sorry, first, that you were even considered for such a grueling racing schedule and secondly, even if you get to the Derby starting gates you’re likely to either be hurt or just completely overmatched. A horse like Curlin comes through once in a lifetime, but the Derby past performances are littered with also rans like Daddy Nose Best or Watch Me Go who come and go like unwrapped candy – sweetly anticipated, but quickly forgotten.

 

For the fastest of the fastest, the 400 or so that will be nominated to the Triple Crown, I wish you good health. Any setbacks along the way like bowed tendons, throat surgeries, muscle pulls, fevers, etc. spell almost automatic disaster. Those human connections holding the rare commodity akin to lightning in bottle aren’t going to be as patient with each  passing day closing in on the first Saturday in May. Less time, more pressure, the chance of injury jumps exponentially – good luck and good health, indeed.

 

While the Bayou is a crazy fun place to visit and then leave with your heart and soul intact, it is really no place to prep for the Derby. There has almost been no impact felt from Fair Ground faithfuls going north to Churchill except for Grindstone winning in 1996, Hard Spun’s second in 2007 and Nehro’s close second in 2011 – that’s not much. I hope you’re wintering in Arkansas, California or Florida, where many more winners have come from lately.

 

Way too many of you just aren’t good enough to win one of the Kentucky Derby preps along the way. It’s really not your fault. It could be breeding, the fact that you matured faster than your mates, and now, they have caught up or just plain old Derby Fever that I have described above. Most of you that survive the grind will compete at more moderate distances from six to eight furlongs – places you can excel and be your very best – or return to greener pastures on the turf. I look forward to seeing you then and there. There’s nothing wrong with winning the Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs on the undercard for Belmont Stakes Day or some other stakes race along the way.

 

Finally, to you the superstar blessed with talent, genes, brains, and the just-right rider, trainer and owner, I give thanks. It is you our lonely Horse Racing Nation turns its collective eyes to – dreaming, hoping that you’ll be the one:

 

·      to save The Sport of Kings supported by legions of two-dollar bettors

·      to electrify those eight to eighty and turn them on to our wonderfully, frustrating sport

·      to find yourself on the cover of Time, Sports Illustrated and even the nightly news

 

It’s a tall order, really. Not fair, really to the be the one and only that started out sometime ago in a grassy field, barely standing before breaking into a trot, gallop and run. Of the 35,000, you’ll be dissected and dismissed along with catching adulation and admiration.

 

Many of us humans will want to be the first to “discover” you or write about you in the electronic stratosphere. Our human motives based on pride, prejudice and opinion are grounded in the real world. It will pale in comparison to your winged flight; your name shouted through the Churchill stretch.

 

In the end, blanketed by roses, you job will be complete. The two-legged creatures we’ll expect so much more, but that is not of your concern. If you return sound, we’ll see you at the three-ring circus in Baltimore and cross our fingers for a New York City triumph. It’s only been 35 years since our last Triple Crown champ.

  

On this cold January night I bid you good night and good luck. You’ll need it.

 

By Tony Bada Bing 

 

 

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They all have a tough row to hoe, that's for sure. I always enjoy the perspective, Tony Bada Bing!

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Tony Bada Bing began his lifelong quest of finding winners more than 35 years ago as a fifth grade student. This is when his grandfather first took him to the many Off Track Betting facilities sprinkled throughout Long Island, NY. While many kids his age were clamoring to hit the beach or an amusement park during summer vacation, Bada Bing was spending it in stuffy, smoked-filled rooms filled with retirees and reprobates listening to Marshall Cassidy on tape delay calling Saratoga.

This passion was further lit by his father, who took Bada Bing to East Boston's Suffolk Downs, only after Bada Bing learned to read the Racing Form. For most of his young adult life a summer rotation of NY OTB, Suffolk, and the now shuddered Rockingham Park in Salem, NH filled his betting days. 

Notable winners along the way: Willow Hour's and Runaway Groom's Travers wins as well as Derby winners Grindstone, Thunder Gulch (which he called in print the day before) and Super Saver. His latest quest is to hit the Kentucky Derby superfecta.

Bada Bing plays tournaments at Derby Wars, bets through several account wagering sites and has blogged about Thoroughbred racing for the past four years. He prefers the bigger meets of NYRA and California as well as seasonal meets of Gulfstream, Churchill and Oaklawn. He likes vertical, multirace wagers like Pick 4s.

He has produced several Horse Racing Nation videos, in addition to blogging. He can be found at Twitter @tonycbadabing. While away from the track Bada Bing enjoys time with his wife, who tolerates and supports his passion, and his two children.