||[May. 2nd, 2009|04:49 pm]
Some Derbys are better than others.
This was a great one.
Sloppy track, 20 horses, and the cheapest horse in the race ($9500), hauled in a regular horse trailer behind a pickup truck for 20+ hours to get to Kentucky from New Mexico--by the trainer--who had a broken leg--that horse so little thought of he went off at 50 to 1 odds...that horse won. Not by a nose, not by a neck, not by a half length or a length....that horse came from far back in the pack, guided on the rail by the inestimable Calvin Borel, passing the others as if they were cantering while he galloped, passed them and passed them and passed them...and came flying home over six lengths in the clear.
That bay colt wasn't expected to do much by the people with the cameras...they didn't spend time on him. No, that was for the favorite, and the million-dollar horses that spent the winter racing in Dubai and getting really fit (but probably not racing in 60 degree weather on a sloppy dirt track) or horses with famous trainers. Not a cheap horse from a southwestern state whose trainer had never been seen around Churchill Downs.
Calvin kept the colt on the rail (as is his wont) except to pass one horse that stuck to the rail the way he does. One much slower horse. Wet's supposed to be deeper in that lane, but Mine That Bird didn't care. Calvin let him go, and he went. I don't know if Calvin ever touched him with a whip (they didn't have the camera on that horse until he was almost to the front--there was an overhead shot afterwards and you couldn't tell, but you could sure see how much faster Mine That Bird ran than the horses he passed.)
And for a horse that had just run a mile and a quarter through slop, not in front all the way so he had a lot of mud on him, he looked totally unstressed. Not even breathing hard, it looked like. Smug, in fact. Ears forward, and that look horses have when they know they've been really good and are due some carrots. Trotting alongside the lead pony with a lovely perfectly balanced, perfectly fluid trot (the kind you look for in other performance horse events, too...)
Calvin, by the way, won the Kentucky Oaks on Friday with Rachel Alexandra, also going away but this time with over 20 lengths on the field.
And they all came home safe, horses and jockeys.