Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

03 May 2011

Let the insanity begin

Derby week is upon us, it is a cornucopia of the good and the bad encompassed in one weekend at Churchill. It used to be that the Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown events were the definitive weekends in the sport. With advent of simulcast racing and multi-million dollar purse days at racetracks, the Triple Crown has lost some impact as the center of the racing universe. One thing remains certain though, the Derby is still the best known and heaviest bet race on the calendar year with the exception of a Triple Crown bid and the two dollar souvenir ticket bonanza that happens that day at Belmont Park.

The Bad

Despite the fact there is 12 to 13 races on a Derby card, the only race that is remembered is the main event. Despite the fact there has been some decent horse that have competed on that weekend, last year Rachel Alexandra was in an all out stretch duel with the eventual Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle. In 2004 reigning horse of the year Azeri was on the Derby undercard as well and was also in an all stretch duel and was defeated at short odds. The undercards of the Oaks and Derby get lost in the shuffle, yet they are always loaded with talent that end up going places later in they year. It is frustrating, because of the fact if the public got familiar with the divisions other than the three-year-old group maybe there would be increased interest in the sport. Maybe with the NBC affiliates picking up the races leading up to the big race there could be some prolonged interest in the sport outside of the big days.

Some call the infield of Churchill the biggest party of the year, it looks more like people that are there just to get drunk and don’t follow the races to me. When ESPN used to do the follow up coverage to the Derby, they would send a reporter (usually in their 20’s and a female) to the infield for what could be described best as small talk with really drunk people. It is actually a bit of surprise that the reporter was never treated like the one that was abused in Egypt during the revolution, even with the influence of alcohol. It would be nice to see the racing coverage divert to the races on hand and not the frat house guy who can down a 30 case of Natty Ice or the celebrities on hand who wouldn’t know Seattle Slew from Zippy Chippy. It would be nice to see this happen, but it is highly unlikely.

The Good

Look at all that good racing, it makes you feel cheated doesn’t it? Yes, after enduring months of $7,500 non winners of two lifetime claimers and racing cards with five state bred maiden claimers you the horseplayer get an overload of high quality races with juiced up pools. Churchill has twelve graded stakes races with varying divisions on tap over the course of two days and as many wagering pools as the mind can dream of. Be warned though, the letdown from these types of days is tremendous. It is like taking a vacation from work and having to come back to work on Monday when you look at the Sunday card at Belmont following the two big days at Churchill.

This is the only time of the year it is considered all right to drink mint juleps. That sticky sweet concoction using bourbon and mint leaves is considered a really bad drink 364 days of the year and this is the one day can drink it without getting a weird look from your bartender or the patrons at the bar. Maker’s Mark produces a blend of their bourbon that is mint julep flavored, finding it is near impossible in NY, because no one in their right mind would drink this on any other day than the first Saturday in May.

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