First, I love horseracing. I love horses. I would give anything for the peaceful isolation of being able to ride horseback out in the middle of nowhere for a couple of hours, far away from the busy city. But, since I’m deathly allergic to horses, and don’t have the slightest clue how to ride a horse, it remains a distant daydream.
I do love the sight of a large horse farm while driving down a backcountry road, as much as that sounds like a country music lyric. Every year while training for Pelotonia, I make it a point to ride up to my cousin’s house and farm in Delaware County just to see the horses… and of course see Aunt Lorry too. Something about the size and strength of horses has always fascinated me.
For whatever reason, my dad and his closest friends have held a Kentucky Derby party for as long as I can remember (i.e. t-shirts, hats, koozies, their own betting window), and that introduced me to the mania of gambling on a wild animal. About 20 years ago, one of his friends purchased a thoroughbred, a beautiful horse named Circulator, nicknamed Jake (never did find out why a horse with a name needed a nickname), and ran several races around the state of Ohio. Off we went to as many drivable distances as possible to watch dirt track thoroughbreds. What I didn’t realize at the time was how bad we were driving down the odds when 20 of us showed up to each throw $20 to win on Jake, just to return $24. Nonetheless, Jake was the man and rarely let us down.
So let’s bet on the Derby; I know all there is to know about horses. You pick one, it wins, you win money. Doesn’t get any easier than that! Until you go about seven years in a row picking a horse that doesn’t finish in the top 5. I started studying, and what I found out was the “favorite” wins maybe half the time, and some horse with mid-to-long odds wins the other half. I also realized the big name trainers and the big name farms don’t always have the return on investment one might expect given their large pocketbooks. Again, these are wild animals, native to a different continent (my son Cole taught me that).
So, if I’m the biggest name trainer in the sport, going through what I might call a dry spell from 2003 through 2015, I’ve got to find a way to improve the ROI. Things change, my team turns the corner, and just magically, we win four of the last seven Run for the Roses.
Breaking news on the new Samsung: Horses use steroids? What the hell do they need steroids for? Have you seen the size of these things? Wait, it’s nothing more than a pain relief cream? What’s the harm? Barry Bonds probably used the same thing.
Oh Bob, now see this is where I’m struggling. I want to believe you. You’ve won a decent amount of money for me, particularly in recent years…American Pharoah and Justify (although I went against Authentic last fall). Bobby, you’re telling me someone put ointment on a horse’s leg and didn’t know what was in it? And those legs just happened to be the fast ones out there? Who would have done this to you without your knowledge, Ryan Braun? You might as well have Roger Clemens in your stable! Perhaps you ought to try the “misremember” defense strategy – how are you supposed to know who is in your barn?
Let me add this… coincidence that right down the street from Churchill Downs, Rick Pitino spent almost a decade running the shoddiest of shoddy? After he already nearly invited the death penalty on a program 12 miles from your largest farm? A program that has fought off rampant cheating accusations of two different coaches since? The Commonwealth of Kentucky, do we have a problem here? I have so many unanswered questions. Next, you’ll tell me the Slugger bat factory is using a previously banned oil to lubricate its largest lathe machine.
Fortunately, unlike Zedan Racing Stables, I’m hanging on to my 2021 Derby winnings. And I’ll still watch the Preakness this weekend, maybe even put $15 ATB on Medina Spirit. But the “leaking credibility” of one of horseracing’s faces of Mt. Rushmore makes me hope this is just an isolated incident many of us will forget by the first Saturday of May 2022.
Preakness Pick: Midnight Bourbon. (Could have, and should have, shown better at the Derby… selected the wrong pre-race cream from the medicine cabinet.)