By now everyone, regardless of whether they follow horse racing or not, knows what happened at the Derby on Saturday. A filly with more heart than leg strength ran herself out trying to beat Big Brown, and had to be put down just moments afterward. I can say it has cast a pall over Louisville, since Eight Bells had become something of a local hero in the week leading up to the race (how can you not love a spirited filly with the moxie to run with the boys?). There have only been a handful of those in the history of the Derby (38 in 134 years) and only three winners, the most recent being Winning Colors in 1988. Sadly and inexplicably (though I suppose it’s not that inexplicable when you consider horses weigh 1,000 pounds and run on legs only as thick as a man’s forearm) this one broke her two front ankles just after the race was over, making it impossible to get her upright and into a trailer. My condolences to all of Eight Belles’ owners, her jockey Gabriel Saez and her trainer Larry Jones, who despite what the PR opportunists at PETA are saying, are all now in mourning.
On a somewhat lighter note, it seems my personal pick, Z Humor, was a bust. This comes as no surprise to all those who’ve followed my racing picks the last three years. Yet even I was horrified to discover that when the odds were recalculated Saturday morning, Z Humor had the longest in the field, set at a truly staggering 67-1. He shortly demonstrated why he inspires so little confidence among the book making cognoscenti when he stumbled out of the gate, losing what little hope he had of winning before the race even began. I’d like to point out, however, that while he did finish 14th out of 20, he beat several horses who were considered “insider favorites” among them Cool Coal Man, Gayego and Adriano. Cold comfort when you’re out two bucks. This year demonstrates that favorites are favorites for a reason. Big Brown could have ice skated to wire. Hurmph.