But first your winner: Colonel John by a neck.
Sorry, that’s not much drama is it? But then we’re not giving you much of a long shot either. We are however giving you the winner two full days before post time though. So if you want to make a play for one of the nineteen lesser contenders at least you’ll have a fine souvenir ticket suitable for framing or ripping into tiny, angry, expensive confetti. Here’s how the race is looking: The Colonel hangs slightly ahead of a big pack in the middle and then runs them all down in the stretch. But the Derby’s not just another race so it isn’t enough to cash a ticket if you can’t do it in style. . Be a pimp and wear your wager. or if you want to really go hard core, you’ll push past the $2 window wearing this. That little number is the name of a horse who would have been the odds on favorite to win if the race had been the first Saturday in April, but now has had his resume besmirched by a run at the Blue Grass Stakes where he was beat by everybody and his stable boy.
If you only look at one Racing Form a year, the numbers on the Derby page provides hours of time-wasting fun. Either plus time to decipher which track OP is (Ocean Park? Octagon Downs? Oregon Palladium?) Or for the cognoscenti to see the jumble turn into some kind of unsavory tea leaves. To save you time as well as money, here are some highlights from the agate type. Since for many of the million dollar nags, Saturday may be their only moment in your consciousness, here’s a tip on each, worth what you’re paying for the advice; going in post position order.
* Cool Coal Man. Has a brand new rider for the Derby, having never been ridden by Leparoux before. All but one of his previous riders is here at Churchill Downs having chosen to ride other mounts. That’s gotta leave a mark.
* Tale of Ekati. Any time he starts back farther than 3rd place he’s cooked. In a 20-horse race he’s likely to be well-done by the half way point.
* Anak Natal. Looks like his name should spell something backwards. Was 45 to 1 before his last race and looked it. I might be able to take him.
* Court Vision. Big closer. Always a nice feeling as a bettor, when your horse is way far back you can always say and maybe believe, “He’s going to make his move……now…..no I mean, now.”
* Eight Belles. She’s a filly, she’s never run against boys ever. Helluva place to start, don’t you think?
* Z Fortune. One of two Z horses in the race. Won his first three, lost his last three. Gutless mostly, always giving up ground in the last fraction. I hate that. Even if he went from 23 lengths behind to 22, I’d like him better. Will beat the other Z horse though.
* Big Truck. Cheapy. Last time he ran in this class he finished 11th. He won the Tampa Bay Derby, think of him as the Devil Ray of this race.
* Visionaire. Best line of statistics of the year. On March 8th in a 1 1/16 race at Aqueduct his race line literally disappears. Apparently the fog was so thick that nobody could track the horses. The military searches for places to bomb across the hemisphere, but nobody could see a 1,200 pound animal from across a block.
* Pyro. Just get the hat.
* Colonel John. The winner.
* Z Humor. Has tried three different tracks in ’08 and lost at each one. Make it 4-for-4 on Saturday.
* Smooth Air. I always wonder about horses that completely change their style. This guy used to be a speedball and now changed to a mid-pack closer. Like if I turned into a dance critic midway through this article. Weird.
* Bob Black Jack. It might be hard to be the track announcer. I’m sure I’d tangle this name up in about a dozen ways, from the way this front-runner fades at the finish, he won’t be called at all after ¾ of a mile.
* Monba. I’ll take my mulligan here. How did he jump to a Grade 1 stake and win it after finishing 40 lengths back at a Grade 2? My instinct is no. Unless he continues to improve by 40 lengths, in which case he’ll finish the race moments after they sing My Old Kentucky Home.
* Adriano. He comes from way out to finish 5th. I’m guessing he’ll use his big kick to finish 15th on Saturday.
* Denis of Cork. The bigger the stakes, the worse he is. May battle it out with Adriano in your 15th and 16th place quinella.
* Cowboy Cal. On New Year’s Day he won the first race of the year, he’s still looking for his second.
* Recapturetheglory. Came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Derby, which in the Racing Form for purposes of fitting in all the type is called the Ill Derby. He’d like to go wire to wire, he’s going to have some steady company that won’t let him.
* Gayego. If he’s close up, like second or third coming around the turn, he will be a bastard coming to the wire. Never finished farther back than second. He wins every other race he’s in, tough luck, since he won his last one.
* Big Brown. The betting favorite, and the last horse who will loaded up into the gate. His trainer took the outside rail, even though his form says speed baby, speed. He’s won races by five, eleven and twelve lengths. Nobody has beat him. Until we do on Saturday afternoon. — Kibby Kleiman