10/28/2010 9:24PM

Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner

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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/