10/28/2010 9:24PM

Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner

Email

With Super Saver’s retirement -- not a surprise, by any means -- I can’t help but pause to consider his place in history. You know what? He won the Kentucky Derby. 

I don’t care what the fan forums say -- that he won only three races, that he won the Derby only because of Calvin Borel. I grew up poring over Derby history books -- you know, the ones with bios, charts and a photograph of every winner (or a painting/drawing if you go back to the 1800s). Most photos showed the winner in the Derby winner’s circle, draped in roses.

Maybe Buchanan won in 1884 because of Isaac Murphy’s finesse, or maybe Brokers Tip didn’t win another race. They won the one that matters - and so did Super Saver.

I was smitten at Oaklawn Park, when, this spring, the striking bay took to the track in the mornings. He didn’t just take it. He came on so powerfully, neck bowed, as if flashing a neon sign that said: Derby winner. Of course, I thought that meant the Arkansas Derby (in which he finished a close second).

It’s tough for a bay horse, with almost no markings, to stand out – although he has a small white spot on his right coronet band that I’d watch for. It was his way of going that attracted me -- his head tucked down with the draw-rein restraint, his action always strong and forward.

He looked as if he came with an outstanding pedigree, and he did -- from his underrated sire Maria’s Mon through the dam’s side rich with Phipps’ blood. Get Lucky, Dance Number and Numbered Account – all stakes winners and producers - appear in his first four generations.

Super Saver is a kind horse, who obviously relished the attention lavished upon him by the Pletcher staff. During the few months I chased him, these memories stand out:

His glowing coat at Oaklawn Park, as if he’d been dipped in Show-Sheen.

When his head was tied to the front wall of his stall at Saratoga, he’d drop his head onto his hay bale and fall asleep. 

He never stopped trying on the track, whether for Patti Krotenko in the morning or Calvin in the afternoon. Even if he might not have felt like it, he was always willing.

How he got along in such a gentle, playful way with caregivers Noe Antonio, Martin Estrada and Maria Isabel Escobar.

How Todd Pletcher’s smile illuminated all of Kentucky when he stood in the winner’s circle that first Saturday in May.

And my favorite memory, framed by a single photo, is Super Saver’s face and neck dripping with sweat, water and mud, his nostrils fully expanded from his historic effort, wearing the blanket of brilliant red roses.

                                

To view other photographs of Super Saver, please visit: http://barbaradlivingston.photoshelter.com/gallery/Super-Saver-2010-Kentucky-Derby-winner/G0000zGq0r1gNrO8/

Anne More than 1 year ago
I usually pick a zillion horses for my early plays for the Derby. This year, only one, Super Saver! He didn't let me down. I knew he had the determination and stamina to win. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to see he had issues during the summer. Many will act fine and maybe work well but a race is a race with more pressure, added weights, plus racing against an actual field. I am glad they caught this injury early so that he can go on and live a long life at WinStar. That isn't a bad scenario. WinStar seems to care about their charges which is a blessing in this industry. Loved the photo of how peaceful Super Saver was on his hayrack. He had that "Life is Good" mode going on. I am always amazed at the interesting photos you seem to acquire during your morning journey on the track besides the actual race photos. It looks as if you are just waiting for that one in a lifetime shot. Amazing patience. Thank you Barb for taking the time to write about Super Saver. It goes to show how much pressure these races are on a horse. As you said, "He won the Kentucky Derby". That is an accomplishment not many can claim. Super Saver, go enjoy some time with your big brother Hedgefund. Talk about your mom and your new sib that Todd has to carry on the family tradition.
Ron Jones More than 1 year ago
Nice love letter to Super Saver, but the Derby form has not held up. Super Saver could not repeat his big race, and Ice Box has been simply terrible. Besides the lousy track conditions, the 20-horse Derby field was cluttered with horses which did not belong. Reduce the field to 14 and get a true race. As for Lucky, we'll see how he does against older horses.
Tony More than 1 year ago
Barbara, That is a GREAT picture of a race horse. You are remarkable with the insights of your words, and more so with the skill of your photography.
Jody Caliguiri More than 1 year ago
Super Saver rose to the occasion. I was praying for rain, for the Kentucky Derby. i had him 100 across, plus I had him in the Derby prebets at 35-1, and 24-1. I knew he'd love the mud. Nobody was even close to him. He loved the track that day. He got first run and ran away with it. I can't wait til his sons arrive on the scene. He's going to be a great stallion. Borel rode him great at Churchill, but not so great afterwards. He would've been a great 4yo.
D. L. Paris More than 1 year ago
Your words match your photos. You capture the hearts of the horses. Thank you.
texmexcarole More than 1 year ago
A beautiful commentary on Super Saver. Your insight and perceptions, as well as your photos always bring out your special feelings for these wonderful animals we call racehorses. I still hold dear your Saratoga Diary featured in Bloodhorse, several years ago. A heartfelt thanx.
John Dwyer More than 1 year ago
Very nice piece...I recall Wayne Lukas answering critics after the 99 Derby. Some were saying Charismatic would never win another race and Wayne replied , "He doesn't have to". I've won with Charismatic and Super Saver and the thrill when your horse crosses first on Derby day is a great feeling.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
Super Saver was certainly a game horse. It is unfortunate, however, that he is now yet another three year old that we will not see run as an older horse. As has been noted by numerous commentators, these early retirements make it that much harder to develop and retain new fans of horse racing.
JK More than 1 year ago
Thanks for this Barbara. Super Saver completed my biggest score as a horse player (pick 4 on Derby Day). I'll remember him for that and my first correct Derby pick since Barbaro.
mikeA More than 1 year ago
Tremendous accomplishment to win the Derby. Too bad he couldn't go on. He definately ranks in the top ten in the first decade of this century.