i picked him before i found this image

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Today is Derby day. I had no information about the horses before this morning, except that Old Uncle Dave likes him, and Bodemeister, and Mom will be rooting for Bodemeister because she likes his trainer. Since I am not at Churchill Downs I can't do my psychic winner picking thing, but I decided to do the intertubes' version of next best. I went to the horses' page and scanned down the line of images.

Union Rags was the one that leapt out at me.

I'm bummed about this because his breeding says he will be lucky to come out of this race alive, even if he wins. I'm more bummed since going image hunting because it's apparent that he is a happy camper. Somebody's home. So, of course, I'm conflicted again. Do I watch and maybe die of a heart attack or wait to make sure no one got hurt before watching the replay?

Pressed to pick three, I'm going Union Rags, Hansen, Gemologist. I actually hope Hansen takes it because he will bring a lot of completely undistinguished bloodlines to the fore, which will help the breed, and he looks the least pounded while running of all the entrants. Gemologist gets a nod for not being passed, which means he might not cotton to it today either, and not looking too strained while running. But the immediate take, the one that is never wrong at the track, unless people are going to bet on it, was Union Rags.

So it looks as though first half of the day will be about the perfection of horse racing, and the second half will be about the perfection of the whole world.


I am either so far out of shape I need to be on an iron lung, or I'm going to keel over from a heart attack. I walked two blocks this morning and thought I wasn't going to make it home. First really nice day in a long time. Just a tad too breezy yet, but auspicious for tonight's meditation. I think I need to go down for a pre-race nap, or kick back for a gander into HISTORIC GLORY. I'm trying to imagine a life without witnessing those races. The Belmont. That race had everyone at my house screaming and weeping and pounding on things and then screaming some more. I hit this pocket where I tried to convince myself that the other horses threw the race, but how could they have been throwing it when it was a track record? It was that far beyond the pale amazing.

I'm spoiled. Every year I'm bummed there is no Triple Crown. I almost don't even want to think about those races anymore, just rely on my memories, and none of the horses today really seems like Kentucky Derby material, let alone Triple Crown material, so I don't know why I got right up for it this morning, and why I keep thinking about it, even as I'm freaking about my own fitness. But... I did get up for it and I do keep thinking about it, and Union Rags' temperament does appear right for the job. So....


The jockey on 19 has gone Zen. If I were there I'd be running to the betting window.


Oh. Well. Then. So. I guess I can still do it on camera. 19. I'll Have Another. Long shot. Wins the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. It was the jockey Zen.


MARIO GUTIERREZ did a Joe Montana. You might think a jockey couldn't Zen a horse into beating so many top contenders, but the deal is: The horse responds to it. That's when the communication is perfect and the horse concentrates, performs as though your mind is his mind [which, BTW, it is] and can't lose then.

I've done it on three horses.

[1] Corky, in a really big stadium jumping competition. A really nasty bitch who paid judges to beat us in hunters made some snide remark to me earlier in the day, as though I didn't know she'd paid for her trophy. I knew she couldn't pay her way to the top in the jumpers and me and Cork creamed her. I just went Zen, muttered once to Corky that he was going to clear those fences if I had to get off and throw him over, and the rest of it was silence and the one mind. All I heard between the insult and picking up my trophy was my mother gasping on the sidelines. That was back in the day, when the jumps kept getting higher and wider on the jump-offs.

[2] Charlie, my trainer's daughter's horse. He was too much for her. Scared her witless and that made matters much worse. Nobody could ride him. So Bitsy let me ride him until she sold him. I was the only person he never dumped. He had perfect works and never even touched a jump the whole time I got to ride him. It was serenity incarnate every moment we were together. Bitsy almost gave him to me but somebody offered her too much money to turn down... from watching me riding him.

[3] The Biafran. Out of one of my mother's mares. She'd sold the mare, but taken the foal when he was weaned. He had the runs until he was two. Skinny as a rail. Difficult keeper. Loving. Slow. Lethargic as hell. I convinced my mother not to even bother starting him. He was going to be very tall. Wouldn't stop growing until he was six. Jet black. Four white socks. Beautiful blaze. Never not mellow. Convinced her to give him to my friend, Connie, who had a stable in Sacramento. When I had my meltdown and went walkabout for a year, I stopped in Sacramento for a time. Connie was griping that he was only 15.3 at age five, butt taller than withers, trots downhill and bumpier'n heck, even if he was seriously beautiful and a way nice guy. I told her. Nope. His short withers mean he's going to grow a lot still. He'll be at least 17.2 in a couple years and a dressage champion. Bought myself a sheepskin saddle cushion to spare my butt that had not ridden in way too many years. Got on him. Went Zen. Started working on his trot, bringing his butt under him. A woman who kept her horse at Connie's stable took one look at that action and made her an offer she couldn't refuse. I begged her to trust me and refuse it. Three years later I talked to Connie one last time and she reported that I'd been exactly right— 17.2—dressage champion—and she had been a fool to sell him.

I hate it when people I love won't listen to me about stuff like that.

ANYWAY, the point is: horses grok Zen. Don't ever bet against that.


To wrap it all up, Old Uncle Dave and I were talking about the hope for a new Triple Crown winner. I don't think this horse can do it. I might've thought so with Union Rags, or maybe Bodemeister, but, well, packed fields always favor the long shots. The top horses aren't used to that kind of chaos. They're trained on giant mattresses behind guarded gates. Squalor is not their gig. This probably wouldn't be the case if not for the starting gate. If they all lined up and went off at, say, a gunshot, they would stand a chance of not bunching up like that. And I can't count how many stakes races I've seen where the winner simply went outside, sometimes waaay outside, around the pack and passed everybody. You'd think this would give them the clue NEVER to clump up, but noooo.

If you have enough horse to win a race that's over a mile long, just lay back and pass on the outside. If you have to have that rail to get your horse to the finish line only blind luck, like all the rest of the horses losing it, will win it for you.

Anyway, also, the heat nailed a bunch of horses today. I was watching the crowd and the kids all had beet red faces. That means it was darn hot, whatever the temperature was. Horses don't do any better in the heat than you do.

Point being: I don't think this horse would've gotten the chance to pass everybody if about five of the other horses weren't nailed by the heat. I hope I'm wrong. He's having a good year. It looks as though he may have the late speed to make it interesting, and the Preakness is only a little shorter, but the Belmont is a mile and a half. That's a full quarter mile longer than today's race, and even if we decide he can get past Union Rags and Bodemeister to go for it, there are going to be distance horses in that race he didn't meet today, and they aren't going to be tired from all this sweaty stuff. You want to give a good race horse at least three weeks between races so they can fully recover to give their best next time. I'll Have Another won't be getting those breaks.

There will be more speed in the Preakness and more distance in the Belmont... meaning sprinters who can hold onto it in the Preakness and distance horses who warm up after half a mile or so and come past everybody else like a freight train just as most American race horses will be starting to lose it. This is why Secretariat was so amazing. He could sprint, sprint and hold on, or go the distance getting faster with each quarter mile. I personally don't think the breeders have left us with enough of a breed to ever get there from here again if they won't open up the stud book to some Akhal-Teke stallions, or start making them wait longer before they can run them... but we've been through all that before.

Still, his jockey thinks I'll Have Another is the horse, and if he knew enough to go Zen in this cataclysmic mob, maybe, just maybe, they can pull it out.