05/07/2011 11:30AM

Kentucky Derby Day 2011 Blog

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11:30 a.m.: Happy Derby Day, where the first headline was " 'Uncle' Romps at Churchill" -- not the scratched Uncle Mo in the Derby, alas, but Uncle Pink, a runaway winner of the opener, a starter-allowance for 3-year-olds who have raced for a $25k tag.

The opener went off at 10:31 a.m., and there are 12 races to go. The stakes racing -- six graded stakes culminating with the Derby at 6:24 pm -- is scheduled to begin at 1:19 p.m. The $2 pick-6 starts there with the G3 Turf Sprint; the new 50-cent pick-5 (which handled $359k on Oaks Day) begins at 2:08 p.m. with the G1 Humana Distaff; and the day's only all-stakes pick-4, on races 8-11, is scheduled for a 2:59 pm start.

Forecasters say there's a 60 percent chance of "scattered" showers, beginning as early as 1:30 p.m. No one seems to have a clue whether it will amount to a drizzle or a soaking. 

The NBC "family of networks" coverage began a few minutes ago on Versus and runs until 4 p.m. It then switched to NBC proper for a one-hour "Red Carpet" show that is supposed to include the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and then continues with a conventional Derby telecast from 5 to 7 p.m.

I'll be back in about an hour with a horse-by-horse breakdown of the stakes races. At the moment I'm leaning away from the pick-6, due less to the lack of a carryover than to the massive coverage required to have a puncher's chance of getting through not only the Derby but also the nearly-as-inscrutable Turf Classic. Navigating the pick-5 and 8-11 pick-4 will be plenty tough enough.

In the day's second race, 4-year-old Worldly, last year's Northern Dancer and Ohio Derby runner-up, outfinished odds-on 3-year-old Bind to win a N1x allowance route in 1:43.61. After winning his debut at the Fair Grounds with a dazzling 105 Beyer, Bind has now run second at short odds in two subsequent stretchout starts,running second at 1-to-10 in a FG allowance and second at 3-5 today.

 

12:30 pm: Here's the cheat-sheet for the six Derby Day stakes, with ML odds, late scratches, and preliminary ABCX grades:

 

 

1:30 pm: It's official: People will bet Calvin Borel on anything on Derby Day, and I'm not talking about Twice the Appeal. Henry's Time, 30-1 on the ML for the Twinspires Turf Sprint , looked more like 300-1 on paper. Facing three of the country's best turf sprinters in Bridgetown, Chamberlain Bridge and Regally Ready, 1-for-16 Henry's Time was probably entered as a favor to help fill out an eight-horse field. With his lone victory coming in a $30k maiden claimer and an 11th-place finish the only time he tried grass, his true odds were north of 100-1. WIth Calvin in the saddle, he was 10-1 with 10 minutes to post and drifted only as high as 17-1 at post time, attracting over $96k in the straight pools alone.

As for the race, Regally Ready ($8.80) prevailed over Bridgetown, with Chamberlain Bridge along for a distant third  while looking short of his best form. Regally Ready, a 4-year-old More Than Ready gelding, was winning his fourth straight and may be headed for Royal Ascot. The first three are all prime contenders for the BC Sprint this fall at Churchill.

Henry's Time trailed throughout.

 

2:00 pm: Here goes on the pick-5:

 

2:10 pm: Well, that didn't last very long. Congrats to Sassy Image ($34.20), who is apparently all the way back to where she was two years ago and then some, and to Robby Albarado for getting a Grade 1 victory on a card where he was bumped off his Derby mount yesterday. Hilda's Passion, second at 3-5, beat the ones I thought she had to, but was second best today in a quick (1:21.01) race.

Guess I'll reload similar tickets to those above for the pick-4.

 

3:15 pm: There are few more depressing sights than the "Countdown to the Derby" clock on Versus showing over three hours to post time....with only two races during that long span.

The CD DIstaff Turf Mile went to Aviate ($13.20), the Juddmonte filly who figured to move up off her U.S. debut and did. I'll give another chance to Fantasia, who came from last to be third after a choppy and tentative trip.

The start was delayed when Vivo Per Lei acted up in the gate and was scratched. 

Looks like we're going to get lucky with the weather: Just a few sprinkles so far, and the Doppler pictures make it look like Louisville's clear for the rest of the day.

 

4:05 pm: Aikenite ($28.60) just nipped Apriority at the wire in a hotly-contested Churchill Downs S. Ibboyee made a remarkable run from last to be a close third, and Capt. Candyman Can suffered his first defeat at 7f after perhaps moving to the lead a touch too soon.

Two hours and 19 minutes till the Derby, with just the WR Turf Classic between now and then.

Preliminary Beyers for the Oaks card, where the routes were running a little slower than the sprints: a 95 for Plum Pretty in the Oaks; a 94 for Blind Luck in the La Troienne; and a 97 for First Dude in the Alysheba, where the first six under the wire --separated by two necks, a head and two noses -- all got figs of 97 or 96. In the two sprints for 3-year-old fillies, Might (Blame's full sister) got a 90 winning a N1x while Victoria's Wildcat received only a 79 winning the Eight Belles. 

Alive 4x7 (5,8,9,12/1,8,11,13,15,17,19) for 50-cent pick-4's and starting to wonder -- after four losing favorites and three double-digit winners -- if it's another year where we'll be chasing a carryover out of Derby Day. If so, Churchill goes dark for four days after today and reopens Thursday.

 

4:32 pm: Early favorite for the 141st Derby in 2015: It was just announced on NBC that the Curlin-Rachel Alexandra foal due in February is a colt.

 

5:00 pm: When Little Mike was scratched from the WR Turf Classic this morning, I had a fleeting thought: Would that leave Get Stormy all kinds of loose on the lead? The thought promptly fled my mind, only to return as Get Stormy built an insurmountable lead through an opening six furlongs in 1:15 and change. Had him if Apriority had won, but not on the same ticket with Aikenite. Bah.

Only 84 minutes to post time for the Derby. WIth $17.2 million in the win pool, it's 5-1 on Dialed In, 7-1 (!) on Pants on Fire, 8-1 on Midnight Interlude, 9-1 on Mucho Macho Man and 10-1 on both Nehro and Twice the Appeal.

Looks like there are no live Pick-6 tickets.

 

5:35 pm: Possible BWI (blogging while intoxicated) Alert: I made a token win bet on my scratched-into Derby "pick" of Mucho Macho Man, poured myself two fingers of Maker's Mark, and will try to find a couple of Wint-O-Green Life Savers for garnish to call it a julep. Good luck to all and I'll be back after the race.

 

7:30 pm: If John Velazquez was going to win this Derby, it was supposed to be on Uncle Mo.

If Graham Motion was going to win it, it was supposed to be with Toby's Corner.

If a horse with only four career starts was going to win the Derby, it was supposed to be Dialed In.

If it was going to be a horse who had never raced on dirt, it was supposed to be Master of Hounds.

But it was Animal Kingdom who did all of the above, and congrats to him and those who backed him at $43.80. As Derbies go, this one was pretty clean and straightforward. The winner was best and is obviously a very noce horse to have run at five different tracks and performed well on three different types of surfaces in just five career starts. You'd think that the first four finishers are Preakness-bound along with beaten favorite Dialed In (8th), who is still eligible for that goofy Preakness $5 million bonus for having won the Holy Bull and Florida Derby.

The Derby winner was sired by one of my favorite turf horses -- Leroidesanimaux (right), the champion grass male of 2005 when he won the Kilroe, the Fourstardave and the Atto Mile before finishing second on a bad foot to Artie Schiller in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Leroidesanimaux was a Brazilian-bred son of Candy Stripes, a son of French-bred Blushing Groom. Animal Kingdom's dam, the German-bred Dalicia, is a daughter of the German-bred sire Acatenango.

Back tomorrow with further reflections, and then on to that $514,582 pick-six carryover at Churchill on Thursday.