May 2, 2016
Are you ready!? Or was last year too much???
Friday morning I had the pleasure of being at Churchill Downs to see the final works (last hard exercise) for many of the Derby horses (10 in fact!). Besides an insatiable appetite for the most amazing Thoroughbred athletes and to enjoy a beautiful bluegrass morning, we were there to see Lewis Bay (Oaks hopeful) and Oscar Nominated (Derby hopeful) for their last work before the big day. For those who may not be aware, Mill Ridge raised both of these horses for their breeders...so out of a farm foal crop of nearly 100 we have two horses for the first weekend in May that we are thrilled about! To put that in perspective...22,001 foals were born in 2013; if half were colts and the other half fillies...only 14 of the 11,000.5 fillies born make the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks, and Lewis Bay is one....likewise only 20 of the 11,000.5 colts make the Kentucky Derby starting gate and Oscar Nominated is one!
I preface this year's Derby lead up emails with this fact, so you can take, or leave, my analysis with the understanding that when I speak of Lewis Bay or Oscar Nominated it is with an inspired heart...not always the best heart to take to the wagering window....
Last year, we as an industry, as Americans, as humans, witnessed history in American Pharoah's Triple Crown win and Breeders' Cup Classic victory lap...he is a special horse, with a personality, a confidence, and a way about him that I had not witnessed in my lifetime. As he was described leading up to the race, this is a horse that breathes a "rare-air," which certainly turned out to be the case. Pharoah graced us through the year with remarkable performances...something we may not see again anytime soon.
So how do we improve? Where do we go from here?
Ah the beauty of this sport...the beauty of this first weekend in May.
This year there is actually a horse who has a better resume at this point than American Pharoah had. This horse is undefeated. This horse won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. This horse is NYQUIST, who should be the favorite...the overwhelming favorite...but this horse has been knocked by everyone for reasons, mostly unjustified, other than it's just the way it goes. We all like to find our team.
In addition to NYQUIST, you have horses like Gun Runner, Brody's Cause, Shagaaf, Mohaymen, Exaggerator (did he really win his last race by that many lengths? should you really ignore it because it was in the slop?), Destin, Out Work....It is as deep and competitive a field as I can remember a Derby. At least 10 have a very legitimate chance, and over the next week I look forward to analyzing and sharing with you my thoughts during the build up to the greatest two minutes in sports!
Lest we not forget about the run for the lilies, the Kentucky Oaks, where Rachel's Valentina, the daughter of horse of the year and 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, will take on Lewis Bay and 12 other incredible 3 year old fillies! It doesn't get any better...I hope you have a wonderful rest of the weekend and I look forward to sharing a few more emails in the coming week.