This is one of those days when I feel bewilderingly alienated.
All around me, people are excited about yesterday’s Derby. They’re loving that this longshot won, see it as a great moment for the sport, are digging his connections.
I just don’t get it.
I’m pretty psyched that one of the people with whom I watched the race hunch bet $2 across the board on Mine That Bird (and on Summer Bird, too), but that’s about it.
When Giacomo won a few years ago, he broke my heart because he beat Afleet Alex, but he deserved a grudging respect, even given his long odds, because he’d finished respectably in quality races, and
But Mine That Bird? Can anyone believe that yesterday was anything but the most monumental of flukes? That the import of this victory will be anything but ephemeral? It may have provided some exciting late-afternoon moments (though where, I’m not sure–I didn’t see any), but it’s impossible to believe that anything that happened on Sunday afternoon will have any significant implications for racing, and the behavior of Mine That Bird’s connections makes me hope that we will not for long be subject to them.
Calvin Borel’s usual—and by now old–over-the-top hot-dogging reaction coupled with the trainer’s initial surliness to a reporter made the post-Derby coverage virtually unwatchable. I keep hearing what a great guy Borel is, and I’m sure that’s true…but I just don’t take to histrionic reactions, and twice in two days was plenty, thank you. I’m happy for him, really I am, but I’d rather not have to see much more of it.
And enough, already, about a $9,500 horse winning the Kentucky Derby. He may have gone through the ring for $9,500, but his current owners paid $400,000 for him. Sure, that’s a bargain compared to Dunkirk’s $3.7 million purchase price, but hardly the sort of Stymie story that was making the rounds last night.
If I’m wrong about all this, and if Mine That Bird somehow figures in racing for the rest of the year—or even for the next few months–I’ll be the first to admit it, right here. But until then, I’m going to have a hard time seeing this year’s Derby as anything approaching important as we head towards summer racing.
OK, and one more thing…a few months ago, This Ones for Phil freaks and runs way beyond his previously-established ability, and the questions started. Granted, there had been a trainer change, and the horse’s new trainer carried with him a load of suspicious baggage. But still: the point is that in this sport, in the face of such dramatic improvements, the public wonders.
But not on Derby Day, when that improvement becomes a Cinderella, feel-good story. Let’s be clear: I am not suggesting that either of these horses won on anything except their own ability. What’s interesting to me is the willingness, on this #1 day of U.S. racing, for commentators of all kinds to put aside that healthy skepticism, and to embrace the Derby Dream, no matter how improbable it is.
I keep coming back and adding to this post, as further thoughts occur to me (the dangers of being home near the laptop on a rainy Sunday!), but I promise that I’ll stop, soon.
I actually love it when improbable longshots win–in the same way that I like when #8 seeds beat #1 seeds in playoffs. I root for the underdog, and unlike many folks last summer, I was psyched when Da’ Tara won the Belmont and when Frost Giant won the Suburban. It’s not Mine That Bird’s victory that has me overthinking today; a longshot won, great; some people cashed, most of us didn’t. I guess that I just don’t see the whole situation as somehow meaningful in the grand scheme of the sport, and it doesn’t seem all that interesting to me.
Having said that, and having written far too much about it this morning, with the exception of tomorrow’s final wrap-up of the Brooklyn Backstretch Road to the Roses charity league, I’m going to take my own advice and move on from the Derby,