Slap Hitter: Tip o’ the Derby

Slap Hitter’s already champing at the bit, and desperate to use a hoof-full of racing terms to express our enthusiasm for the First Saturday in May. Gotta love the language of the track results too. Go to the Derby website for a feedbag full of horses that “throttle” the opposition, ones who win the race in “facile” style. Oh my God, just look at top contender Pyro’s past histories and it reads like some cool haiku. Or a porno review.

Showed nothing.
Finished willingly
Angled out
Just got up.

This year the 510 goes unrepresented as usual. But that’s no reason to skip the festivities. We don’t compete at the “graded” level. Usually our local champ is so much filler in the stampede anyway and creates the worst of all possible things for a horseplayer; feelings. Jockey Russell Baze has no mount anywhere near Churchill Downs, and the closet thing the Bay Area’s got going on is the fact that one of the minor prep races for Kentucky, Bay Meadow’s El Camino Derby was won by, I shit you not, Autism Awareness, who paid a jaw-dropping $126 for a two dollar bet. The inappropriate jokes, I will leave for the reader.

The next two weeks will reveal little more. The main contenders are as prepped as they’re going to be. And if it’s hard to pick a winner amongst two dozen horses who’ve won everywhere, but rarely against each other (and it is) at least let me give you a comer of a story.

The filly Eight Belles has been a beast. She has four wins in a row, starting with a 15-length smasher at Fair Grounds Park in New Orleans, since then she’s unbeaten, recently capturing two stakes races at Oaklawn Park. The deal is though she’s been preparing for the Kentucky Oaks. That’s the girl version of the Derby and now it might be thought of as a consolation prize. All the standard hating applies: Her competition was weak, her jockey sucks, her sire was nothing special, she’s a girl. There are Derby letters to the editor, a Derby blog, and the deeper you dig it, the better the stories. As for us two time zones away; time to buy some mint leaves and a pitcher, it may take two weeks to learn how to make a tip-top Julep and about that long to decipher the Racing Form for this year’s race. So why bother? Because those freakishly fast animals carrying freakishly small men for freakishly rich owners at a freakishly weird bacchanal is a party one shouldn’t miss. And if you’re hoping that this is the last you’ll read about horse racing here? Don’t bet on it.— Kibby Kleiman

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