Last night, I stayed up late watching Derby stretch run montages on youtube. I got teary-eyed over a few of them, Ferdinand and Barbaro most notably. I am always amazed that Easy Goer could not get to Sunday Silence in the ’89 Derby, as the big black colt zig-zagged all down the stretch. Strike The Gold, today’s oldest living Derby winner, was so far out in the middle of the track that he is just barely in the frame of the ’91 Derby stretch footage. Thunder Gulch’s white blinkers stuck out like a high beam in the 1995 Derby, the very first time I picked the winner. Cavonnier still looks like the winner in ’96, even though Grundstone wore the roses…Menifee almost makes it up to pass Charismatic in ’99… “not today” Point Given eats the dust from Monarchos, who wins “as fast as Secretariat”… ’03 winner Funny Cide shocks the Frankel duo of Empire Maker and Peace Rules…Smarty Jones wallows in the slop and becomes America’s Horse in ’04… what a stretch run in ’07, with Hard Spun ceding the lead to Street Sense as Curlin ranges up for 3rd…Big Brown blows the 2009 field away, followed by the filly Eight Belles, who would have been Zenyatta’s biggest threat, IMHO…and in eight days, another horse will join these legends of the track.
The contenders are at Churchill Downs now, working out on the track’s signature dirt surface, recently certified by the NTRA’s new Safety & Integrity Alliance. The horses come from jurisdictions that have banned steroids and cracked down on race day meds in the past 12 months, in hopes that severe injuries will become a rare occurance in the sport.
Pioneerof The Nile worked out on the dirt yesterday, and turned in a sizzling 6 furlong drill. This colt is ready to rock. The polytrack question is irrelevant to me now. He’s my top pick.