this week leading up to the Wood Memorial, I thought it would be a great idea
to revisit a Wood Memorial of past. The 1973 Wood Memorial pitted legendary
Secretariat against his biggest rival, Sham. This last prep before their Derby start was the race that would crown the Derby favorite, but
sometimes it doesn’t end up that way.
the gates flew open that day, the famed Secretariat
flew out of the gate clean and settled in behind the pack in 7th position. Sham
took his position in second just outside of the fast-out-of-the-gate Angle Light. All around the track, Sham remained
second to the leader Angle Light who never gave up his position. Secretariat
did make up some ground as the race progressed; half way through the race he
passed 2 other horses making it into 5th and then around the final turn and
down the stretch the future immortal Secretariat managed to pass another 2
horses but could not make up the ground to finish any better than 3rd behind
Sham and Angle Light. But all hope was not lost that day, as we know
Secretariat would go on to win not only the Kentucky Derby but would be
dominating in all of the Triple Crown races. He would of course later be
referred to as the Greatest Race Horse of All Time (no disrespect to Man o’ War).
is this important to visit now? Because last week started the end of our Derby prep races and
because right now we are in the middle of figuring out what the field will
shape up to be that First Saturday in May. Now I am not calling any of these
horses Secretariat; nor am I calling any of them Angle
Light who finished a dismal 10th in the Derby after his defeat of the champion. But
what I am saying is…do not discount anyone too prematurely. Derby champs can lose their final prep and
still take home the roses.
you know that only half of the Derby
winners since 2000 has won their final prep? That’s right, only 50% of the Derby winners won their
final prep. The others have finished second or as far down as fourth prior to
going to Louisville
to strut their stuff. Now, it could be said that the more ‘dominate’ horses did
win their prep leading into the Derby.
Horsing greats like Big Brown, Barbaro and Smarty Jones;
but many that we have come to consider great came up short like Funny Cide, Street Sense
and Monarchos. I can see a few of each of these
in the field on Derby Day May 5th.
good horses lose races. Sometimes, horses with the potential to be great horses
lose races. But the difference between a great horse losing a race and a good
horse losing a race is what they take out of that race. Races unfold as they do
and sometimes, no matter what we envisioned based on figures, it comes out
This past weekend, we saw our Derby
favorite lose his last prep before the Derby.
What I think many people may be missing is the experience he gained from the
race. Union Rags (and his jockey) can make up
late ground if he has to and in a field of 20 gunning for the number one prize
in all of racing, he may have to. We also learned that Union Rags is able to
get in trouble and start up again. In fact, he actually made about 3 separate
runs. We learned something about Union Rags, whether we jump ship or not. Union
Rags got a little more experience and hopefully his rider learned something too.
know we all want to beat up on the jockey, but sometimes jockeys get out
jockeyed; and Saturday, Julien Leparoux was out
jockeyed. No, not by Calvin Borel (although his
riding was superb and his horse looked great) but by Javier Castellano and I think Leparoux learned something.
am sticking with Union Rags as the future Derby
winner because the Florida Derby is a lot different than the Kentucky Derby. I
think excuses (facts) can be made for his performance in the Florida Derby. I
agree with Gary Stevens when he said, that as a
jockey in the Kentucky Derby you are more worried about your trip than other
horse’s trip. I feel confident that Castellano and every other jockey there
will be concentrating on the trip of their horse instead of the trip of Union