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Revisiting the 1973 Wood Memorial

Secretariat
In 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.
 
As 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).
 
Why 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.
 
Did 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.
 
Sometimes, 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 differently.
 
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.
 
I 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.
 
I 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 Rags. 

 

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Older Comments about Revisiting the 1973 Wood Memorial...

It's a Shame that race can not be seen ..l was there near the 1/8 pole at the fence , l would have enjoyed reliving that moment .. TO BAD
Pardon you, no disrespect to Kelso.
Steady plodder? Editor's Note would be that standard of reference.....Union is more a sustained presser
This race, and the games the track crew have played with that Aqu surface, has not been the lerning prep it was always designed to be. Juicing the surface ahs given false results to many of the winners so that the longer more stamina proving 10 furlongs a few weeks later is world's apart from that speed favoring test in Ozone Park New York
Union Rags is a steady plodder who up to this point has shown no speed. His best chance to win the derby is get as close to the lead as possible and hope the Red Sea doesn't part with Calvin Moses Borel crossing just in time. Personally Bodemeister, whether he wins the KD or not will be the best of the 3yo crop. He has everything going for him, speed, bred to run "fast" for miles. Take a look back at his 6th generation pedigree where foundation is made, amazing.
Seems like we had similar themes today, Angie ... nicely done!
There is nothing harder than winning the Derby in the 20 horse era!

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