Sunday, May 2, 2010

Photo Essay: The Lengths One Travels To Win A Kentucky Derby

The bell rang and twenty slick horses steamed out of the gate and into the slop. With a roar of approval from the grandstand, and despite the abundance of mud, it appeared to be a clean start. A little less than 125 seconds later Calvin Borel cruised home first aboard a mud covered Super Saver to claim his third Kentucky Derby win in four years. Borel made it look so easy but he would be the only jockey walking back to the clubhouse who got the trip he wanted. For the remaining nineteen entrants, there are enough bumps on the chart that it could be read as braille.

Here's mud in your eye...

Photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

Much was made of the poor inside post position assigned to the favoured Lookin At Lucky. Jockey Garrett Gomez was given the thankless task of urging his horse from the gate and finding a safe spot before the wall of horses to his immediate right came crashing down upon him in a wave of mud and hooves.

Disaster was narrowly averted just seconds from the gate. Lookin At Lucky broke to his left and the first few steps from the gate sent Gomez directly towards the rail where it curves into the stretch run - ever so briefly, it appeared the only escape would be to hurdle the rail or meet it head on. Miraculously, Gomez shifted in the saddle, nudged his horse slightly to the right and found a safe spot.

For three more seconds one would imagine Gomez breathed a sigh of relief but then trouble came looking for Lucky once more. An amped up Paddy O'Prado bared in forcing Stately Victor, and jockey Alan Garcia, to body check Gomez hard into the rail. Somehow jockey and horse kept racing. At the quarter pole, Lookin At Lucky was 18th and nearly twenty lengths back of the front-running Conveyance. Only dead cert closers Ice Box and Make Music For Me were behind the shell shocked favourite.

During the turmoil Borel had guided Super Saver clear out of the gate and into familiar his spot along the rail in sixth position.

When you're this good they call you Bo-Rail

Photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

Conveyance sped through fractions of 22.63, 46.16 and six furlongs in 1:10.58 ensuring that a trio of front runners in his vicinity - Sidney's Candy, Line of David and Discreetly Mine would be no factor through the stretch. Only the brave Noble's Promise survived the harried pace.

As the front-runners faltered, Super Saver improved position never leaving the comfort of the rail. At the back of the pack, Gomez was trying desperately to get back in the race. With three furlongs to race, Lookin At Lucky launched a five-wide bid to move from eighteenth to sixth by the top of the stretch.

In that same time frame, Borel inched briefly off the rail to pass one rival then ducked quickly back to the rail.

Super Saver slops speedily to sure victory

Photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

The stretch run was ever so dramatic. Noble's Promise dug in and took one last shot at Super Saver running with the leader nearly the length of the stretch before tiring in the final furlong.

At the other end of the stretch Joze Lezcano and Ice Box were only just beginning to stir. The pair raced next to last until they finally made a move to be fifteenth at the mile marker. As Super Saver led the field through the stretch, Ice Box sat eleventh some nine lengths in arrears and behind a wall of horses. Lezcano and his steed were steadied once entering the stretch. Determined, the duo angled out and sped down the track only to be steadied once more. At the furlong marker, Ice Box was finally clear to make his late run.

Gomez made his move before Lezcano and was sixth hitting the top of the stretch just five lengths from the winner. Gomez negotiated space for Lookin At Lucky between tiring rivals and finally found clear running room with a furlong remaining - but the jock was out of horse.

Cruising down the lane, all that stood between Super Saver and Kentucky Derby glory was the finish line and several hundred yards of slop. Noble's Promise fought gamely but was put away. Lookin At Lucky was bumped, battered and ultimately spent. But down the middle of the track came one final competitor in the form of Ice Box.

Ain't no flies on me...Borel barrels beyond the wire

Photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

Borel kept to task on Super Saver throughout the stretch run with constant urging. The jock's arms rocked back and forth fluidly as his hands climbed up the neck of his horse. In the centre of the track, Ice Box galloped past tired foes with his third stretch move demonstrating heart as much as his tremendous lung capacity.

The wire loomed and after one final peek Borel stood up in the irons and rejoiced. Two more jumps and Ice Box raced by Super Saver as Lezcano sat back in the saddle. The grandstand erupted, Borel unleashed an almighty primal scream and the bettors waved their tickets deliriously.

The only bumps for Super Saver on this day are the goosebumps he provided an audience of appreciative fans. In racing, the difference between winning and losing is often a matter of mere lengths. The path to the winners circle in this Kentucky Derby can be measured by the distance between Borel's left leg and the Churchill Downs rail.

Calvin Borel victorious in front of the Churchill Downs grandstand

Photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

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Congratulations to Calvin Borel, Todd Pletcher, WinStar Farm and all the connections on a glorious Kentucky Derby victory.

Super Saver Wins The 2010 Kentucky Derby

1 comment:

Ernie said...

3 annoying Qs for KM

How'd you play the race?
Ever been to the Derby?
Any Careless Jewel news?