The dust from the Derby has settled and it’s time for a little wrap up. I know I said I would never do this, I usually detest when this happens but really, it is time for some Monday morning quarterbacking. I usually try to stay loyal to the jockey, I assume that he gives the horse the best ride possible and I know that I could do no better. BUT, when mistakes are so obvious I just can not stand by blindly defending my favorite jockey.
I remember right after the Arkansas Derby, the commentator turned to Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and asked if he were still riding who would he chose to ride in the Kentucky Derby. I expected more hesitation out of Gary Stevens (a huge supporter of Mike Smith) but without hesitation he replied, ‘Union Rags’. Well, all I can say is I wish he would have been riding Union Rags on Saturday as well.
The Florida Derby was a bad race for this talented colt but I kept my faith because I know this horse has the potential and also because I thought for sure this jockey would not make the same mistake twice. During NBC Sports’ coverage of leading up to the Derby, they asked Gary Stevens about the trip in the Florida Derby changing his mind and he replied, “No, the jockey learned something that day and he will not make that mistake again”. This was my thinking exactly. I thought, Leparoux was boxed in then stayed too close to the rail when there may have been room to get out and go around horses in the Florida Derby…BUT…there is no chance in hell he is going to do that again in the Kentucky Derby. This horse and jockey really learned something in the Florida Derby. Well, I think the only person who learned something was Michael Matz.
As the gates flew open this past Saturday in the Run for the Roses, I saw Union Rags get pinched back, but I wasn’t worried. I knew that Leparoux would let the other horses go ahead out there and he would take the horse on the outside of the other horses along the backstretch so that he would have a good position heading home. I know that the others are going to try to have ground saving trips, but I think Leparoux knows that he could go wide with this horse and he will still make the strong run to the finish line. So…I waited for him to take the horse wide…and waited…and waited…then I hear the words from the announcer, “Union Rags is in trouble!” My heart about stopped, in trouble, how could that be? Leparoux has to be starting to take him to the outside by now; they are coming around the turn. But no, there is Leparoux checking behind the one horse the whole world knew not to follow, Trinniberg. That was it; that is when I knew the Derby was over for him.
I sat in disbelief, not at the winner getting up he is a great horse and is very deserving of his win. Not in Bodemeister quitting; he and Smith put on a tremendous performance and I have nothing but admiration for them both. I think Dullahan’s late run was remarkable considering he may not be a dirt horse. Then there is Went the Day Well, wow, once he kicked on for home he made up tremendous ground. I was so very impressed with him. But for Union Rags to finish 7th…I would love to say no excuses and no blame…but I would be lying. I do know one thing for sure; I am off the Union Rags bandwagon. At least until they find a jockey that fits him.
Congratulations to the winning connections on their Derby win; they were the best that day!!