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Kentucky Confidential


Kentucky Derby Live Blog

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Magic. Magic. Magic. A day ago, Johnny Velazquez is 0-for-12 in the Kentucky Derby and facing questions about the demise of 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo. He replaces Robby Albarado (sorry) on Animal Kingdom and rides to his first Kentucky Derby victory by an emphatic 2 3/4 lengths for the wonderful Graham Motion. Remember, this is a trainer who has never had a drug positive in his career. This is a trainer who cried when he one his first Whitney because of his respect for the race and the game. Motion is the consummate gentleman, who came up under rascally Bernie Bond (a Maryland master of baby races) and then studied under Hall of Famer Jonathan Shepherd. The breeding said turf, but the horse said, “I can do anything” in the Spiral. When the field made the walk down the stretch to the paddock for saddling, Animal Kingdom was looking around, excited by the crowd. Intrigued. He wasn’t uptight; he was inquisitive, enjoying himself. Temperament is critical; we learned that this week with Kerry Thomas, our herd whisperer. If you paid attention to my picks, you have made some money yourself, although Nehro spoiled the triple and exacta party. Nevermind. The victory was brilliant. Keith Feustle, the great chartcaller for equibase at Laurel and Pimlico is with good company upstairs right now sorting out the chart. You can count on it be as accurate as they come. Personally, I feel electrified, enthralled. I watched with a beautiful pair of binoculars overlooking the stretch, julep waiting inside. This entire week with Kentucky Confidential has been magic, magic, magic. I will never forget this Derby and I hope you made money and have had a great time.

Racing may be in trouble, but not the Kentucky Derby. Attendance was just announced at 164,858. Smashing!

The son has made its way out. The Kentucky Derby starts in a mere 65 minutes. The track is fast. It did not appear to favor horses on the inside in sprints, but it is inconclusive in routes. Certainly, horses have proven able to rally. I am sorry I missed the question about the turf earlier. My fault for not scrolling down. Hope you had winners.

For the Derby, I know who I want to bet, but I am willing to call audibles based on the appearance of a horse in the parade to the paddock and, if the lines aren’t too long, in the post parade. If you are betting of an account, wait as long as comfortable to put your wagers in. You never know in a scenario like this if someone will act up. If they were loading them right now, I’d be betting Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Santiva, Master of Hounds (a very surprisingly well backed 15-1) and push Archarcharch/Dialed In/Mucho Macho Man into those exacta combinations as protecting wagers. The five-horse exacta box, with a one-dollar base value, is $20. The return is mighty for these combinations and well worth whatever investment you can afford. I will also roll into the late Pick 3, as I did with Giacomo ($14,900). It is the forgotten wager. Incidentally, I was very strong on Sun King, but he looked lifeless and I went to Giacomo (and a few others) instead. In the second and third positions of this Pick 3, I will use 4-9/1-2-3-5-6-9. They accept 50-cent base bets for this, and I will play them, although you will break into a tax ticket if you hit. So, either way, it won’t manage much. Just depends on your stomach for playing a lot of money. If you are wagering on a triple – or even a superfecta – I recommend just one or two horses in the win position and bravely add a few in second and as many as you can afford in third. The exacta is an easier bet, pays very well and is more realistic. A triple, however, can put you on easy street for a long, long time. I’ll try to check back for questions. The blog has been intermittent because, hey, I’ve been having fun. Hope you have too.

Scratching Little Mike, the speed freak who would have been No. 1 in the Turf Classic, left the door open for Get Stormy to control the pace with his own speed. No one took it to him or pressed him. Smart Bid laid close but never really forced the issue. In the stretch, Get Stormy just took off and pulled away to victory. It is very important to respect pace turf horses when so many of these animals need a fast pace to run at because they don’t have speed themselves. They are fast, but the speed is not tactical. Get Stormy’s speed is. He needed to be in top form to win this Grade 1 race, one of the most important turf races in the country, and he was.

Took a long walk down amongst the party people and the crowd, as you can imagine, is brimming with tottering 21 year olds, more searsuckers than you can possibly imagine, flowing alcohol, women smoking cigar, all shapes, sizes, colors. The Derby is the great American sporting event and it’s a pleasure to be here, in the press box and out.

Can Al Khali finally get a win at 1 1/8 miles in a Grade 1? The odds (16-1) say “yes”!

I hate Aikenite, the (Ed) bane of my existence.

We’re primarily moving the multi-race tickets through here, but Captain Cherokee (No. 4) looks so coiled for an explosion I will be him flat at 13-1. Bucking but not out of control, the happy, happy camper. The sun has begun to fight back against the clouds. The chill has lifted. The Blue Moon is flowing at Bobbie Joe’s counter, the infield has come alive. After this race, I am going to ramble among the masses just to shake off some nervous energy. Loving the day

I do hope you all enjoyed your exacta, my good friend. Now we are blogging.

2:58 p.m. – two minutes to post. I land on the 6-7-8-11 and play Aruna (6) to win and place. The Pick 4 ticket is ridiculous …

2:44 p.m. – Pete Denk and I are struggling mightily to develop a pick 4 that begins with the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile. If you spread in this leg, you just continue to spread in the next three until you’re dizzy, as one fabulous horse after another attracts your attention. Then you get to the 19-horse Derby. The mind reels. You want to play because the payoff is life-changing, but you do not want to abandon your money, especially if you’re not drinking and actually focusing on the matter at hand. Thinking about that statement, maybe it’s better to be drinking. Tossup.

Johnny takes a bow. 16-1 for the followers. Hope you got in and sorry for the late post. Wonderful way to start the Pick 5 (and hit the exacta).

Hilda’s Passion looks awful tough in the Humana Distaff, but Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park are markedly different courses. I’m going to throw in the long shot, Sassy Image in an exacta of the two.

Hardcore players note my Pick 5: 1-7/3-6-7-8/3-5-12/14-16. (See a Derby tip in there?)

Eagle eye Bruno De Julio put me on Regally Ready at the window so at least I started a Pick 3, staving off meltdown. My picks, so far, have not been very healthy. I plan on biding time through the afternoon and conserving money to get to the Kentucky Derby. Lunch now, and the line is a mile long in the press box. One of my very first editors, an esteemed rascal named Randy Gordon, taught me a gem for the journalistic life that I continue to live by: “You’ve got to feed me to read me.”

1:12 p.m. – Crapshoot of a TwinSpires Turf Sprint. I’ve been trying to divine the darn thing for 20 minutes and have no real sense. That’s a shaky entry for a flat bet or heading into a Pick 3, let alone a Pick 6. I’ll skip the Pick 6 and go with Custom for Carlos, Chamberlain Bridge and Bridgetown. Two Bridge exacta? Why not!

12:43 p.m. – Kent Desormeaux on Goodtimehadbyall rallies past my Fusa Code with Corey Nakatani and kills all my Pick 3 and Pick 4 tickets. It is not even 1 p.m., and we may wind up witnessing a public meltdown on the Kentucky Confidential blog.

Our horse expert Pete Denk is already warming in the bullpen, but I am waiving the manager back to the dugout. I wanna pitch.

12:25 p.m. – Hello, everyone. John Scheinman on the blog.

Welcome to Churchill Downs . . . yes, I’m starting 25 minutes late, but time has a funny way of speeding up and slowing down on Kentucky Derby Day. You hobnob and lose track and it flies by. You sit and watch the minutes slowly tick by before the post, and it goes slowly. That happens particularly toward the end of the day, when the gap between races grows and grows.

Objective No. 1 today: Win money.

Objective No. 2 today: Have fun.

Objective No. 3 today: Accept that it is getting very chilly and the clouds above appear pregnant with rain.

The field is on the track for the parade for the fifth race. I have no strong opinions here, but could be completing a few Pick 3 tickets if the 1, 2 or 3 win. The No. 2, Saratoga Red, is a lukewarm 3-1 favorite, but I am loving Carsoncitygambler sitting at 11-1 on the rail for the king of the Churchill Downs rail, Calvin Borel.

As we move through the day, we’ll get into the race just about all of you mostly care about, a little thing called the Kentucky Derby. I’ve got some ideas on how to make big money. And, remember, I bet my picks so if you go down, you can take satisfaction that, at least, I went down with you.

We’re here to win; fire up the iPad, log into your TwinSpires account and let’s go get it.

5th race picks: 2-3-1

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What is the probability rain will affect track conditions for the races on the second half of the card? Specifically, do you think the turf will be less than firm for the Distaff and Woodford Reserve?

Posted by turfeye on May 7, 2011 @ 11:24 am

John, still waiting to hear what you think about turf course condition will be later on the card for races 8, 10.

Posted by turfeye on May 7, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

John is off crafting tickets, so I’ll try to help field questions.

There is a very light rain falling as I write this. I would handicap for a good turf. Who knows if they’ll actually change it officially, but I would expect something a little more trying than firm.

Posted by Pete Denk on May 7, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

where’s the live blog when we need it?

Posted by jkeskinen on May 7, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

John & all other esteemed contributors:

Thanks so much for going ahead & creating this amazing collection of well-written stories & excellent video interviews (that young trainer was an amazing discovery for you – hope he succeeds & comes back to Churchill with better horses!).

Your graphics designer(s) also did a super job of balancing the presentation of text & colors – which then enhanced the photography & overall “feel” of the magazine – without which, photos are just a dime o’dozen.

Kent Hollingsworth, the former Blood-Horse editor (see his “Archjockey of Canterbury”) would have proud of your creativity & dedication.

Heck, SI Newhouse now wishes you had been available when he was busy pouring millions & millions into his personal financial sinkhole, Portfolio (which folded).

But being the independent people that you are, you probably would have told him off by 11 a.m. on Day One (unless Anna Wintour had ignited the rebellion at 9:30 a.m.).

I’ve enjoyed visiting this “home” & am looking forward to your next venture with avid enthusiasm.

Besides, anyone who states that Aikenite is the bane of his existence had to be separated from me at birth.

I think that means you have good taste as well as perceptive judgment. But then again, that valid assessment would mean that we couldn’t possibly be twins.

That’s all, folks. See you down the road.

Posted by Don Reed on May 7, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

Don Reed, you have been a fine Greek chorus throughout the run, and I am glad you enjoyed and appreciated what we have done. And while I wish no ill will on any horse, I would be quite happy to never see Aikenite cast a pall over my tickets again.

Posted by John Scheinman on May 8, 2011 @ 1:35 am

You know, long goodbyes belong to Bogie & Bergman on the Moroccan tarmac.

But it would be a shame to let this story go without mention, so, indulge me. That it had occurred during Derby Week – well, it could not have happened at any other time of the year, I think.

Preamble: No matter what, I’d still do it all over again.

The Derby symposium, at Gallagher’s in NYC last Tuesday, turned out to be the best one yet (appreciated all the more because there have been real bombs in the past). The writers gave us their worthless picks, we gave them our worthless picks, the food was good, & no one was able to fix the microphone system, which led to some fantastic opinions being bellowed back & forth across the room.

I ran into Jack, probably the most even-tempered race goer ever born. I hadn’t seen him in years. Our one-time haunt was the old OTB Winner’s Circle on 7th Avenue & 38th Street…

Which, truthfully, considering how our finances stood at the end of an average day, should have been renamed The Debtor’s Prison (which is exactly where OTB-NYC itself ended up, on December 7, 2010).

Jack & I shared a long-time friend, Tom, an enormous giant of a man born on July 19, 1925, who by the early 2000s was in his late seventies. Doubtlessly able in his prime to bend steel wagering programs into pretzels, in his last years, his health had started to fail him.

He never gave in. Single & living in a single-room-occupancy hotel somewhere in the Herald Square area, he’d push that walker with the ratty plastic bag attached & stubbornly make his way along on the grim garment area streets & into the OTB restaurant every single day that it was open for business. Other physical infirmities developed but equally never daunted his resolve.

As life miraculously improved in the early nineties, I started picking up both lunch tabs.

It was a pleasure. He’d snap back into his own self & grandly summon the waitress over to the table. As she rolled her eyes – because when Tom was alone, it was Saltine crackers & sodas, maybe a cup of soup, grudgingly ordered – he’d order a fine bottle of wine with aplomb (& this was an aplomb-starved environment, I assure you).

Clams on the half-shell were boxed in a gourmet’s exacta with a fine steak & all this never failed to revive the flashes of his old confidence & joie de vie. Then he’d give out his tips & I’d buy him a few win tickets. I don’t think we ever cashed one of them; if he had ever been a good handicapper, I never saw any evidence of it.

The only regret I have today is that I was never able to confirm his story that he had been on a ship that, part of an invasion force involved in the storming of a Pacific island, had been mistakenly (well, duh) sunk by an American submarine.

There were discrepancies in his tales. I eventually concluded that I was breaking bread & my racing budget with one of the last of the old time Times Square petty con men – the type that over in England, Somerset Maugham had immortalized in “Cakes & Ale,” those of us who shoot the moon in our youth but later incongruously attain a degree of respectability, even fame.

And although Tom probably was just a few years too young to have been on location when A.J. Liebling did his most productive prowling around in Times Square, he likely would have fit right in with the conniving mugs & vain fops that star in Liebling’s brilliantly funny long short story, “The Jollity Building.”

The end came.

OTB-NYC & Tom started to fail, irretrievably, at the same time.

If we’d been able to post a “Do Not Resuscitate” sign over the hospital bed of the worst legalized betting corporation known to man, it’s possible that OTB & Tom would have been honored at wakes held on the same day.

But of course, OTB, continually propped up with Albany’s financial smoke & mirrors, outlived one of its most faithful patrons – the ex-Navy vet who would have relished the irony of OTB being sunk on Pearl Harbor day, a day on which he also would have been disoriented forever because his real home had vanished.

Speaking of homes, Jack asked me if I had known that he had been Tom’s estate executor.

“Estate?! Jack, he didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I figured it was Social Security & not much else.”

“Well, yes, at the very end, that was true. But Howard Johnson’s had paid him a million & a half dollars to move out of his previous hotel so it could be demolished.”


Tom Piosky, you rascal. You got me.

God bless.

Posted by Don Reed on May 9, 2011 @ 1:14 am

Author PhotoJohn Scheinman, a long-time writer and editor, covered thoroughbred racing for The Washington Post from 2000-09. He won the Red Smith Kentucky Derby writing contest for best advance in 2007. He is a correspondent for the Thoroughbred Times. Scheinman also has worked extensively in humor writing and sketch comedy. He lives in Washington, DC. More by  ›