Derby Recap: Super Stars

Todd Pletcher, Calvin Borel, and WinStar Farm do not evoke images of Cinderella. There are no ragged clothes, glass slippers, or handsome princes scripted in their story. All have been to the ball and achieved enough fame and glory to last a lifetime.

And then there is the regally bred Thoroughbred, Super Saver, who was born to be a star and destined to achieve great things. No emergence from the claiming ranks or miraculous return from injury. For him, all roads have always led to the first Saturday in May.

These are not the characters of fairy tales. But the Kentucky Derby has a unique way of interweaving plots and characters and writing its own compelling storylines.

Continue reading this column...


Leave a Comment:

Danny Noonan

Baffert needs a new jock for 'Lucky. Gomez has been awful.

04 May 2010 11:14 AM
Bill Daly

Excellent recap, Steve.  I just don't know how Borel does it.  All day long the winners were taking wide paths, except for Borel. Even Jerry Bailey was telling people the rail was poison.  Tell that to Borel.  Amazing.

04 May 2010 11:20 AM

What Jackson didnt offer to buy Super Saver yet?

04 May 2010 11:47 AM

Another great article Steve! You get the best quotes, and paint the stories. Thank you from all of us who couldn't be there, but now feel like we were right there, in the thick of it!

04 May 2010 11:56 AM
Karen in Texas

Thanks! As always, you authored a comprehensive and insightful recap of the Derby itself and of the connections involved. Calvin Borel is becoming a legend in his own time.

04 May 2010 11:58 AM

I am glad for Todd Pletcher and for WinStar Farms. Good horsepeople - they deserve their win. I feel so bad for Lookin At Lucky and his connections though. That horse just doesn't quit trying, no matter how roughed up he gets in a race. That horse is definitely all heart.

04 May 2010 12:03 PM
Jet Deck

fun watchin and congrats to all.  Is there any word on what happened to esky and are we gonna see him anytime?

04 May 2010 12:05 PM
EL Kabong


Thanks again for another great lead up to the run for the Roses. For many of us out here, January has become our private spring time, as we all wait for that first posting of the Derby Dozen. It shakes off the cold and sets into motion the furious gathering of clues to find......THE HORSE.

For me it was a good year.  Like you, I was high on Super Saver early after that eye popping race at CD in November, well after all the excitement of the Breeders Cup. Then nothing.

Not untill your first list did I know exactly what had transpired with this colt. But as you stated, you wanted to see him rate. That was indeed the million dollar question with this horse, that and enough training. With only two races on the schedule, he would have to be a very trainable and smart horse.

I have to admit, right after the Arkansas Derby I had some concern. I compared his stride down the lane to a Foster Brooks Stumbling drunk routine, weaving left then right. The stewards should have at least tested his breath.

I was also concerned about 3 weeks being enough time to build up the legs for 10 F. The other horses were winning preps, but then reality set in. I looked at the past times of recent Ark Derbies and only Afleet's time was better by on 2/5ths. SS and LOD had better times than Curlin or Smarty. Then you put him back in the 3 rung and convinced me that the Arkansas would be enough to "give him the tightness and toughness" to tackle 10F. My confidence in Super Saver was bolstered tremendously by that comment and by the comments you made about his training on the wet surface of CD just prior to the race. Anyone should have been able to see his great breeding. It was right there for anyone-no coldfacts rehashing needed.

Ok, Calvin riding didn't hurt either. Calvin made a few comments too about his training that didn't hurt either so I was confident he could rate this horse. Heck, I looked at MTB's PP's and he had never come from that far back in his races, so getting SS to sit back 6 lengths didn't seem far fetched. In fact, I made a prediction after one of Jason's articles about Pletcher, before Eskendereya was scratched that Pletcher would win, but the headlines would read-

Borel Wins Third Derby!

So, thanks. We do listen closely to your words of infinite wisdom about these athletes you seem to know better than most. But remember, you're only as good as your last pitch thrown, so on to Maryland you go.

04 May 2010 12:06 PM


As much as Calvin has a gift to win the Derby you have a gift with crafting words to describe the great and memorable moments in racing. Thanks for making racing even more enjoyable!

04 May 2010 12:22 PM

what a terrible shame that the breeders had lost maria's mon nearly 4 yrs ago just as his career really got going with gr1 winners like awesome maria and now super saver who is maria's mon second derby winner.

04 May 2010 12:24 PM
Sunny in Salem

I heartely second El Kabongs sentiments, with this additional caveat.Your commentaries that I seek out and print out are what my elderly mother gets the most enjoyment from. She loves these horse races and can't get much info on her tv or paper so get all your articles I can find and get them to her. She saves and rereads alot of them, as they give her the feeling of being at the races. Thankyou sir, for your love of the sport and talent for putting it down on paper.

04 May 2010 12:56 PM

Thank you for another great article.  I admire Calvin and Lisa Borel so much.  Calvin tries so hard and it seems all he knows how to do is work, work, work.  I have read many articles about him over the past two days and not a single one mentioned his heat stroke.  Thank you for letting us know.  Also, I didn't know he rode for JJ after the Derby.  Considering JJ's less than nice comments after Rachel's defeat, I hope things are better with Team Rachel now and that Calvin feels secure that he will ride her again the next time she runs.  

04 May 2010 1:07 PM

Beautifully written article Steve Haskin.  

04 May 2010 1:11 PM
glorimar in pr

This is as good as it gets! Super Saver and his beautiful maternal pedigree...names like Dance Number and Numbered Account... Intriguing...Glamour...Striking...Baby League up to La Troinne, WOW!

Maria's Mon's two Derby a shame he passed away.Super Saver looked so professional on saturday, as professional as his connections. Todd Pletcher classy professional and don't forget the Winstar people who exude the love for the business and their horses.

Wonderful story...this is what it's all about...the love for the horse and the people involved.

Thank You, Mr. Haskin!

04 May 2010 1:14 PM
Don from Delaware

Thanks again Steve, so glad you gave high kudo's to "Ice Box" and the recent history of making to the KD by a nose....if he stays healthy he is in my opinion, other than the Big

"E" theeee horse for any track and track conditions that Nick Zito enters him in...Preakness and/or Belmont...with a little bit of luck or less misfortune he would have been the KD winner. don

04 May 2010 1:24 PM

Excellent recap of the whole day. Young sportswriters could learn from this column. Thanks

04 May 2010 1:31 PM

Beautifully written, Steve, as always.  In a race so packed with events and storylines, I suspect this could have been 5 times the length it was, but you artfully selected the necessary moments and made the reader feel as if he or she had been at the rail.  Thanks!

04 May 2010 1:41 PM

First few paragraphs a great lead for a wonderful story.

04 May 2010 1:44 PM


04 May 2010 1:54 PM

Steve Haskin always guarantees that we will all be there with him when he describes great races and the horses and people involved.  He opens the door for us.

04 May 2010 1:56 PM

Fabulous article Steve,love that last quote, never heard it before...Thanks so much!

04 May 2010 2:07 PM

Calvin Borel is proof that a strong work ethic, a good attitude and, of course, a TON of talent, can still pay off. He knows that racing is hard work and he is willing to give it his all every day, from early morning to the afternoon races.  Borel deserves his success.

I have to admit, I do wish the Derby fields were not so insanely large.  So much can go wrong and I am amazed so few horses and riders have been hurt (or worse) over the years.  

04 May 2010 2:17 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all very much for your kind words. I really appreciate it. But if you want to read the best writer in our family, I will be posting my daughter's article in Stride magazine as my next blog -- in two parts. I hope you all enjoy it. I'll probably post tomorrow.

04 May 2010 2:25 PM

Hi Steve,,

Thank you for another recap of the Derby that couldn't be done better than you ! I was there and took it all in as with the last 10 yrs I've

visited. To see the sun pop out right at gate time was so lifting,

people were all amazed somewhat.

maybe somebody opened the curtains for us for a few minutes,,and the results were just as good.

Stay healthy Steve and be back next year to give us some more of your majic !  Good Luck on the Preakness. I can't wait !

Great story !!!!

            MIKE G IN MICHIGAN

04 May 2010 2:26 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


Let me add to the glowing reviews of many here...another great article.

I have two problems with it though.  One with what you said, and one that you sort of allude to but don't elaborate on.

First, and I only bring it up because you did and it relates to my bigger issue, do you think Rachel's hard fought loss on Oaks Day was really "a blow to the sport"?  A blow to Rachel fans maybe, but a blow to the entire sport?  

I think this is part of the problem...perspective.  Rachel is running about as fast if not faster than she was at times last year.  The difference is she has been the high weight in her first two races in 2010, and she is in against tougher company.  If these facts escape people, to the point that her losing a race or two is a blow to the sport, then that's a pretty sad state of affairs.

Speaking of perspective, what about Super Saver's winning time in the Derby?  Aspersions were cast all over Mine That Bird last year, and he won in 2:02.66.  And he was already a Champion before the Derby.  Super Saver's 2:04.47 is the slowest time since Sunday Silence.  Am I saying that a Super Saver - and by comparison, Sunday Silence - were "flukes" or low quality horses?  Of course not.  But plenty of turf writers and commentators did that to MTB last year.  The difference to me between MTB's Derby victory and Super Saver's Derby victory - besides the better times and speed ratings for MTB's victory - is that unlike SS, MTB was clearly the best horse in the race.  And he went out and beat all the males again in The Preakness.  Not so this year for SS. I think at least three horses could have beaten SS with slightly better trips.

I shouldn't really call you out on this Steve.  You have the grace and respect to give the Derby winner and his connections their due.  But here's the many in this industry eat their own young.  Maybe the ones that could do us all the most good in the long run.  Do you hear people from all walks of life talking about the winner of this year's Derby, like they did last year?  I don't.  Are the general increases in popularity of The KY Derby this year related to or caused by last year's result?  I'd say yes.

So when it comes to this Derby winner, or that Derby winner, or Rachel, what I would like to see is some perspective.  We don't need to build up false heroes for this sport, especially when real ones already exist.

04 May 2010 2:39 PM

Wonderful Story! Looking forward the next big race! Have you ever thought about writing a book about the track the folks there i am sure you know some character that would be interesting to know. Here in Ga we are trying to get our own race track not sure that it will go the the legislator or not . It would bring much needed jobs and I for one would love it . Think about Mr, Steve I belive there is an awesome book waiting to be written your many fans would love it!

04 May 2010 2:41 PM
johnny d

Is it me or did that exacta come back really lite? $152 bucks?

04 May 2010 2:45 PM

You never cease to amaze me with the little nuggets of information you sprinkle into your stories.  They come alive under your touch.  Thank you again for bringing such depth and interest to yet again another of your gems.

That sounds really oozy, but I mean it.

I am, again, so thrilled for the connections of Super Saver.  Congrats to all of them!

04 May 2010 2:55 PM
Steve Haskin

Gary, I didnt mean a catastrophic blow, but every time Rachel loses to a lesser opponent it is a blow to the prospects of a showdown with

Zenyatta, which would be huge and put racing on the map nationally, more so than had they met at a small venue like Oaklawn compared to NY or Ky. She is not losing because she's not fast enough. She is losing because of whatever happened to her over the winter that no one will talk about and because of all the messing they've done with her trying to get her to rate. She is a free running horse who beats you on the turn,not in the stretch. Closing fast is not her strength. She needs to separate herself from the others on the turn and she cant do that sitting and waiting in slow fractions for the closers to catch up by the quarter pole. She just doesnt have the closing kick to outclose them.

04 May 2010 3:08 PM

Can someone please tell me what is going on with Eskendereya? Is the CIA involved? I can't find any info on what happened to him and what is his future. I left the country for two weeks and I come back, he's gone from even being mentioned. What a shame.

04 May 2010 3:18 PM

Hey Gary at Rough Creek,

Have you ever tried running in peanut butter?

04 May 2010 3:22 PM
Terri Z

Thanks for another well written and informative article. And congratulations to Winstar, Borel, and Pletcher.

I wonder if your previous article about Devil May Care and the Racing Gods should be renamed "The Racing Gods and Equine Triple Crown Angels (i.e. Secretariat and Seattle Slew)?

Both Slew's and Big Red's jockeys were in town for the reopening of the Derby Museum. And Penny Chenery cochaired the Pegasus Parade.

Wouldn't it be something if the descendents of Secretariat and Seattle Slew won all three legs of the triple crown.

Then we would all believe in Racing Gods and Racing Angels.

04 May 2010 3:25 PM

Enjoyed your article Steve're the man!

On the Rachel Alexandra issue i think that she is getting to where she was last year and that the two losses were actually good prep races for her showdown with Zenyatta.  I believe that the next time "Rachel" hits the track she is gonna be her devastating old self.  People need to be patient just like Todd Pletcher, the Winstar crew and Calvin Borel were with Super Saver.

In anticipation of the Preakness I wish to say that Super Saver may not be as flamboyant a racehorse as Eskendereya but he's loaded with the goods to maintain superiority in Esky's absence.  I'm siding with Calvin Borel and Pletcher for the rest of the Triple Crown trail ..SS may not have peaked just yet so watch out.

04 May 2010 3:42 PM

Let me add to the glowing compliments to Steve!  So richly deserved, as usual. I look forward to reading your articles moreso than anyone else's as they are so often filled with information and angles that we often don't hear of anymore.  As some folks have mentioned in other blogs, the coverage leading up to the race (both the KD and the Oaks, but let's not open the can of worms on Bravo's "coverage" of that....) used to be filled with insightful stories, background, race histories, pedigree info, etc etc... Now it's become a popularity contest of who's who in the celebrity world who've come out to CD, and a fluff filled yawn fest. Thankfully there are still some competent horse people like Tom Hammonds, Gary Stevens, Mike Bataglia, Donna Brothers, etc etc... who add their professional take.  I wish STEVE HASKIN was milling about the track giving us some commentary!!  

Overall, I am happy with the outcome of the race. I'm glad that Todd P finally achieved his dream and that the wonderful personality that is Calvin Borel put smiles on most people's faces and that the breeders/owners of Super Saver  have their Derby winner -- they seem like a classy bunch.

Some things that I don't like and would be interested in how others feel are:

* 20 horse field is TOO LARGE.  the first three posts are enough to terrify the viewer as they make that mad dash -- I can't imagine what the poor horses feel.  While it will probably take a miracle, I wish the powers-that-be come up with a better system of qualifying entries. Whether it be earnings PLUS a point system or something else, a solution needs to be found. ONE starting gate filled to capacity is quite enough. If you don't make it in, oh well.

* Trainers who say "We're not making any excuses for the way we ran" ...then they proceed to talk about all the factors that helped them not to win  (apologies to Baffert who I genuinely admire) But if he felt that Lucky should have been pulled up right after the first turn... why didn't he scratch after the terrible draw of post #1 ? With that colt's recent spate of bad karma, did anyone really think he could possibly overcome everything AND the #1 hole? Too great a prize at stake I realize, but then don't make statements that contradict it afterwards.

* The lack of mentioning (or little thereof) of the so-called synthetic horses performance on "dirt" --- we'll never know, because of the awful condition of the track, if horses such as Sidney's Candy would have performed better on a dry, fast track... how does this factor in on how we can apprise on "past performance on dirt"  if the dirt was nothing but a gooey mess? I don't recall anyone mentioning this.

* This is mildly irritating to me but if the fair-weather fan (no pun intended)who tuned in on Derby Day (those who only watch horse races during the TC trail)...they would get the impression that Todd Pletcher has had 24 yrs of being shut out of the Derby. I think it would be more fair and put things in a different perspecitive if the color analysts correctly stated that Todd had 24 ENTRIES over the past X number of years. I had to explain it to someone and he then understood that Todd was not the failure of over two decades that the misspeaking tends to make him out to be!  Nit-picky I know, but it still nags me.  Bravo to Todd for getting his coveted win!

Well, I think I took up enough space.  Just want to also say that I enjoy reading all the other posts (except during the Rachel/Zenyata bashing) and that, whoever he is.... DrayNay certainly provides a ton of entertainment; love him or hate him, he gets the attention !!!

Thanks again Steve, for a beautifully written article.  I hope we get our Triple Crown this year as I'd dearly love to read your take on that!

04 May 2010 3:54 PM
Bob Z

Steve Haskin wrote:

"She is not losing because she's not fast enough. She is losing because of whatever happened to her over the winter that no one will talk about and because of all the messing they've done with her trying to get her to rate.

She is a free running horse who beats you on the turn,not in the stretch. Closing fast is not her strength. She needs to separate herself from the others on the turn and she cant do that sitting and waiting in slow fractions for the closers to catch up by the quarter pole. She just doesnt have the closing kick to outclose them."

That's a great observation... I've watched the recent races and wondered why she wasn't just opening at will like she did last year...

If a horse wants to "go" and is being restrained I would think that saps a lot of energy...

They have always said that the Breeders Cup was the goal... thats 1 1/4 miles... I wonder if they are trying to get her to rate so she could handle the 1 1/4 miles...

... problem is (New Orleans Ladies aside, too soon, not fit..) she lost a race that she should have (could have) won...

Is it possible that by the change of race strategy they are expecting Rachel to rate and still have the explosiveness at the end of the race?

So now she's lost 2 races... For the Stephen Foster I would change it up and let her run wild and see what happens...

I always thought that Rachel would beat Zenyatta at 1 1/8 miles not because she would out kick her in the end but because no matter how great Zenyatta is ... she wouldn't be close enough to Rachel and would simply run out of track...

With the way the race strategy seams to be I don't think Rachel could beat Zenyatta even if she is 100% fit because if she rates Zenyatta will have that much less distance to make up...

Why would  Team Rachel mess with the winning formula from last year... ?

For God sakes ... in the Foster let her run and do her thing...

04 May 2010 4:11 PM

Gary - In RA's career, she has run in 3 different "stages".  Early on, she was running in the low 80s Beyer's (discounting her first start).  In the Golden Rod (the first time Calvin got on her and the beginning of her winning streak) she started running in the 100 range.  In the Kentucky Oaks, she jumped to 108, and from then to the Woodward, ran in the 108-116 range.  She is now running in the 100 range, but is not facing 3 year old fillies who are running in the 80-90 range.  She is no longer getting the separation from the field on the far turn.  What I saw in the La Troinne, which really bothered me, was RA lolling her tongue when Calvin went to the whip.  A horse that is tongue lolling is almost always an unhappy horse.  You will also see it when horses have the chains in their mouths (they are trying to protect the sensitive bars of their mouths from the chains), but in other situations, it is almost always a sign of tension/unhappiness/

physical discomfort.  She has not done this before in races that I have seen, it really makes me wonder about her state of mind.  

04 May 2010 5:05 PM

Good observation on Rachel, explains a lot...

I feel really bad for LAL, he's a nice colt, the only thing I can say about the #1 PP is that the #2 PP came in second through all that traffic...

I'm still upset that SC was burned up the first part of the race in the mud...I sat there thinking "oh my, if this is for real, in all that mud on a sealed track, there goes Secretariat's record" to the reality of watching JT literally holding SC up around the far turn...

BUT on the plus side, I did bet SS to win, too, but I really have to hug General Quarters (who I always felt was a grass horse) because I bet the exacta on him and CV...!

04 May 2010 5:13 PM
John C

I experienced my first Derby ever and it was fantastic!  Having been at the track since 8:30 that morning, to see the sun come out... I could only think that God wanted to peak in and watch the Derby...

04 May 2010 5:15 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


Rachel is an amazingly consistent runner.  You bring up your opinion/observation that she is not getting separation early in her races because she is not being allowed to run early.

If we compare her race last year in The KY Oaks (at Churchill on a fast track) to this year's La Troienne (at Churchill on a fast track) what do we find?

She didn't get separation in the Oaks until after the 3/4 mark if I'm not mistaken.  Very much like many of her races.  She went from being 2nd a head to first by 10 lengths in 2 furlongs.  But she didn't run a sub 24 split to do it.  The other horse just faded, and there was no one of any quality in The oaks last year to catch her.

Rachel ran faster splits, and a faster race, in the La Troienne, at least for the mile (1:36.57 in the La Troienne vs. 1:36.71 last year).  And she was carrying three more pounds than last year.  Why her Beyer is lower by 5 points I can't say.  She just ran into a quality opponent that got 4 pounds from her, and beat her.

On most occasions last year, I just don't see a pattern of  blistering early speed, separation, and then holding on.  I see consistent speed that buries many, but that speed is just not fast enough to compensate for carrying extra weight against better female competition this year.  

I wrote it several times last year, and I'll write it again.  Rachel was not the best horse in two of her victories last year.  Does that take any luster away from her amazing campaign?  Well...yeah.  It should.  We should speak openly and honestly about weights and handicaps and quality.  And that - in part - is what I'm referring to when I bring up perspective.  Anyone who loves Rachel...that's great.  Does love and admiration make her the best horse at the track?  Absolutely not.  Horses are creatures.  They are sentient, they have limits and they deal with physical issues like all athletes do.  If we must have perfection - or a Rachel vs a Zenyatta race - to SAVE RACING OMG aaaahhhh...we're not really realistic fans. I think some of these turf writers and others (not you Steve) who in the same breath denigrate some horses and speak of the imminent demise of racing ought to look somewhere else for a partial the mirror.  Do a little soul searching and imagine you are the owner or breeder of a horse that just won the KY flippin Derby, and your horse is called a fluke or a one hit wonder.  Think about it.  What good will come of saying that about a horse?  But is it a "slam" on Rachel to objectively analyze her times and racing style and performances and come to a conclusion that she just may not be better than all horses?  Of course it's not.  It doesn't mean she's not an incredible filly, just as Super Saver's slowish time in the KY Derby won't take that title of Derby champion and that trophy away from him.  

OK...I'm off my soap box.

04 May 2010 6:18 PM

Anyone find it funny that Borel only had one glove on???????

04 May 2010 6:53 PM

(I was so excited when Mr. Haskin's Derby Recap came out that I hastely posted my comment about it on his last blog. I'm going to repost it here because the other blog is buried down deep in the blog stable.)

Mr. Haskin,

It finally came, your recap of the Derby was worth the wait! You have a knack for bringing out tidbits other writers don't know about or fail to report.

Who else would tell us about "Calvin's trying to die in there" after riding the race following the Derby? No one!

The fact that Super Saver's connections considered him the "least ratable" of the WinStar horses was also a revelation to me. I was under the impression that Rule was. Either I missed that information or I didn't retain it, but in any case, it gave me an even better appreciation of what Calvin Borel accomplished with this colt. The quote from his agent "He teaches them what he wants them to learn." also opened my eyes to the fact that Calvin is not only an exceptional jockey but also an accomplished horseman.

We all know about Borel's work ethics and how he always honors his commitments. What we didn't know was the price he sometimes pays for his dedication. Your reporting of his wife's statement: "He thinks he's invincible, that he's made of iron." gave of a glimpse of what it's like to be in Calvin's zone. Priceless!!!

I can go on and on about the excellence of your article but a "critique" is not what I'm trying to accomplish. I simply want to express my gratitude for having you as our eyes & ears in a world that is closed to most of us. You get close to the action and the people involved in it and with your words, you give us a chance to be part of the "behind the scene" world of horse racing at its highest level. Thank you!

04 May 2010 6:55 PM
Kevin J.

This was my least favorite Deby ever. I have had it with the top horses ending up with these terrible post postions. The 20 horse field is to big! It should be cut back to 14 like all big races. Breeders Cup, Preakness and the Belmont, the Travers. Also the graded stakes earning should be used as the means of drawing the post positions. Watching Looking At Lucky being banged into the rail twice ( what I saw anyway ) made his whole run up tp the Derby nothing but a joke. Then a played out but game Sidney"s Candy just running out of gas from his position 20. Time to get real with the Derby !

04 May 2010 7:00 PM

Steve - As always beautifully written!  It gives those of us who were not there a much more clear and vivid description of what actually transpired.  With your words you breathe life into what we have seen in only one dimension.  I do hope that Calvin is well after his heat stroke and is taking some r&r time.

I watched the KD on TV, as well as many times on the B-H, and thank you for clarifying who it was that intentionally or unintentionally interfered with Lucky's position after coming out of the gate.  They should have named him something else.  Lady Luck probably did not like his name.

Everyone panicked over PP1, but Calvin headed straight for it - it is his lucky charm!  Too bad other jocks and trainers don't look upon it so favorably.  They jinx themselves with irrational thoughts.

Like Ghostzapper, I would like some news on Eskendereya also.  What was his diagnosis and will  he be well enough to race again this year or ever?  What about Endorsement and his condylar fracture?

As for Jess Jackson and Asmussen - they should have left well enough alone when it comes to Rachel Alexandra.  Tinker, tinker, tinker.  If it aint't broke don't fix it!  Personally, I think she expended a lot energy in those races against the boys.  Unlike Zenyatta - when I look at pictures of Rachel last year and this year she never looks happy before, during or after a race.  Look at her pictures, I see a horse who is pained, or apprehensive - she doesn't like what she is doing. She executes beautifully and perfectly, but she doesn't enjoy it.  It makes me sad to see her look like that.  Maybe she was happier with Wiggins (if I remember her first trainer's name correctly)?

When you look at pictures of Zenyatta at any of the above phases - she is happy, twinkles in her eyes, putting on a show, she is like laughing or smiling during the races.  She is having a ball.  I'd like to see Rachel that relaxed and happy with what she is doing.

Both are great females!  Maybe one day they will be mated with Super Saver.  Let us hope they all stay well and sound.  That is my mantra of many words 'well and sound'!

04 May 2010 7:07 PM

Okay Steve should I pile on?? As always you helped me win $$ again. Next year we all chip in a get you to the Derby earlier.

Twenty horses are to many,look at were the one hole is behind the rail. No one can convience me this is a level playing field.  

04 May 2010 7:17 PM

Steve, or Anyone - Has it been determined whether, or not Zenyatta will be racing at Belmont this year?

I'd like to make travel plans early if she will be there.  Or, given NYRA's financial woes - will there even be racing in NY after the Belmont Stakes?

Thank you,


04 May 2010 7:18 PM
Steve Haskin

Gary, who said racing must have perfection or a Rachel--Zenyatta race to save the sport? I certainly dont remember saying that.

And dont confuse fractions with running free vs. rating. She was free-running every race last year. Her slowest half last year, if you want fractions, was :47 2/5. On Sat. they went in :48 an change. Watch Rachel's races last year and tell how many times she was running with her head up in he air the whole race and how many times she failed to switch leads until inside the eighth pole. How many times did let a horse get in front of her at the 1/4 pole? I'm not saying she didnt run two good races this year. Im saying I'm not seeing the same Rachel as last year from a visual sense. I never once saw her cock her head in a work last year. Can she return to the same Rachel as last year? Possibly. I sure hope so.

04 May 2010 7:20 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you for those nice words, Zookeeper. I just try to tell the story as best I can and make it enjoyable.

04 May 2010 7:22 PM

A very well written summary of the Derby and the winning group.  I was at the Derby, my 42nd, and the sun indeed came out as we sang "the sun shines bright...."  It shone on Pletcher, Borel, et al and the owners gave credit to God who sends us trials and suffering, and rewards us when we handle them and keep faith in Him.  No where was this more evident than these past two weeks up through the Derby.

Lukas was a gentleman and handled defeat graciously, while Zito and Baffert did not.

04 May 2010 7:25 PM
Steve Haskin

Nancy, if Belmont does run, I would expect to see Zenyatta run in the Beldame or even the JC Gold Cup and then ship right down to Churchill for the BC. I know they definitely want to run her at Belmont and put her on those big turns, and NYRA said they will make concessions with the detention barn. I can all but guarantee you she will race at Belmont.

04 May 2010 7:31 PM
Derby gal

Nobody does it better.  Thanks Steve for an article that is beyond words.

04 May 2010 7:37 PM

Gary at Rough Neck,

You and your soap box make a lot of sense. It is a pleasure to read reasonable arguments devoid of the anger and/or disrespect usually displayed in comments regarding this "hot" topic.

Mr. Haskin,

Your comment "...whatever happened to her over the winter that no one will talk about..." really peaked my interest. If there's anything to that I'm sure you will root it out and hopefully tell us about it.

On the subject of Super Saver's name, do you happen to know how they arrived at the "Saver" part? Quite a few of us are not very enchanted with this less than regal name...  Although, I think that we won't mind it too much if he keeps winning. lol!

04 May 2010 7:41 PM

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your commentary on Rachel.  I think her race was (justifiably) overshadowed by the Derby, and I'm interested to hear a more experienced perception on what is happening this year.  I agree; she does not look like the same horse.  Is it the fact she gained weight?  (Steve Asmussen alluded to that.)  Or, as you seem to indicate, the fact they are forcing her into a different style a running?  (Maybe in an effort to stretch her out.)  Either way, in my (admittedly uneducated) position, last year they rode to victory off Wiggins' foundation and now they don't know how to gear her up.

Another question: to what extent do you think Calvin is responsible for this new style?  He said soon after the NO Ladies that he was told to take her back, but quickly retracted that statement.  Jess Jackson denied giving him any orders before the La Troienne, but I find that hard to believe.

On a semi-related note.  I wonder if there is a correlation between success when a jockey works the horse vs. when he doesn't.  It seems Calvin working Super Saver helped prep him to run so well.  Compare that to the fact he's not allowed to work Rachel anymore.  As a rider, I would think it makes sense that a jockey's best preparation would be to work the horse and get a feel for how they go.  Do you think trainer's should encourage this?


04 May 2010 7:50 PM
Easy Rider

Great column Steve,I always believed in Super Saver as you did.I was down in Vegas in January for the NHC i put 200.00 on Super Saver in the Ky futures at 35-1 Then I put another 200.00 on him in pool three of the futures at 35-1 needless to say I am delighted with his victory. Super Saver is very well bred thats why I bet him.

04 May 2010 8:07 PM
Karen in Indiana

Serena, he was there. He was on TV as Todd Pletcher was making his way to the winners circle.

A wonderful article, Steve. Thank you for being able to relive the experience. Were you able in your time there to spend any time around Super Saver? He's not a flashy horse, but the more I've watched the coverage agin, the more impressed with him I've become. He acts very mature, what I've seen, and that calmness should help him weather the coming storm.

As to the comments about Bravo & fluff coverage, yeap, it is fluff. But maybe it's no coincidence that there is an increase in attendance and handle that has happened at the same time. In places like Japan and Hong Kong where they target women and young people, have fashion shows and contests at the tracks, horse racing is a very popular sport. For the serious race followers, fan and gambler alike, we have places to go like Bloodhorse, HRTV, & TVG. If having fluff coverage on Bravo, ESPN & NBC brings more people in, more power to 'em.

04 May 2010 8:13 PM
Karen in Indiana

Nancy, wonderful descriptions! That's what I see, too, but you described it beautifully. Zenyatta is loved and knows it. Rachel just seems lost and unhappy.

04 May 2010 8:24 PM
Ida Lee

Well, great article as usual. And as usual, I never even considered Super Saver as a winner. It was all Looking at Lucky or Paddy O'Prado or Devil May Care. I never learn. Borel is CD!! The man can win on a camel if it's at CD!! But it was great fun anyway as the Derby always is... I was rather traumatized with Rachel's race on Oaks Day (as she is my Queen) but then Blind Luck and Evening Jewel put on quite a show and then the next day, my favorite race of all .. no not the KD. But the General Quarters race (I can't remember the name).  It was so great to see this wonderful horse and his owner, trainer, groomer Mr. McCarthy win big. I still remember from last year seeing Mr. McCarthy bathing his pride and joy and only TB GQ with so much care and love, it brought tears to my eyes. And then the dissapointment of seeing GQ get beat and hurt. Well, it was just heartbreaking. So,it was just great seeing him win such a big money race on such a big stage. All in all, it was a great weekend of racing.

04 May 2010 8:28 PM

Fabulous column, Steve.  As usual. I love all the little personal bits you weave into the story!  Best recap of the Derby I've read.  

04 May 2010 8:37 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, brilliant as always. A pure joy to read and I mean that. I marvel at the way you bring the story to life with a simple turn of phrase. A true gift.

Some interesting comments here. I agree with Gary of Rough Creek's first post about Rachel Alexandra. If you look at the two races this year, she ran well and fast. She was very narrowly defeated in both of them. No, she isn't the same horse from last year and frankly, I don't think she is going to be at that level again. But she is certainly capable of winning any race she is entered in. She was and still is a great horse. She has been great for the sport. However, it would be a rainy day in h**l before I would ever race her against Zenyatta this year. So Steve is right also, she is not the same horse as last year. I do not think it has anything to do with how they are trying to rate her. It'a about the intense campaign of last year and the winter layoff.

04 May 2010 9:11 PM
Mike Relva


Spin it anyway you like,but I TOTALLY BUY INTO what Steve is stating regarding RA. Her first race back is understandable. Last week was a race that RA from last yr. would've won. You dont agree? As of now,she's not the same.

04 May 2010 9:15 PM
Mike Relva


Way to go on stating way back that Todd would win the Derby. I was way incorrect.

04 May 2010 9:17 PM

Great article Steve.Thank you for your insight and expertise.I have particularly enjoyed your work with Lenny S as well.Maybe if we can convince Calvin to run for gov in New York, NYRA might survive

04 May 2010 9:23 PM


Thanks for another well written wrap-up.  I've read you for years and you have the gift of being able to put the reader right into the heart of the story.  You bring out the human element and accurately describe the differences with the equine athletes.  You paint a great story.  As a lot of the others do, I look forward to your articles and your Derby Dozen to brighten up the cold, bleak winter.

Do you think Super Saver has what it takes to win the Preakness and go into Belmont Park with a chance to be a TCW?  I'm going to the Belmont and would love to witness the first TCW in 32 years.  Thanks again.

04 May 2010 9:45 PM

Mike Relva!!!!

You're alive and well! (I hope)Welcome back! I was afraid that you were including Mr. Haskin's blog in your SELF imposed exodus from this site. Glad I was wrong.

04 May 2010 9:49 PM
John T

I was glad to see Todd Pletcher finally get his Derby win as his record speaks for it,s self and he deserves to win the race he wanted the most.The horse I wanted to win Lookin At Lucky once again had lots

of excuses,he cerainly is not short on talent and we will see if he can bounce back.Another hard luck story was Ice Box and with Zito knowing how to prepare a horse for the Belmont,he should be well primed for that race.

04 May 2010 10:06 PM

terrific piece steve....all the jocks in the room should be fined for allowing calvin to do what he does.. he's a one trick pony...unfortunately the other riders dont seem to understand that... he can't get a mount anywhere except Arkansas and Kentucky, when he goes to Saratoga he can ride the entire meet without a win, but in Lousiville, I have to hand it to him...he gets it done. It boggles my mind but he gets it done

04 May 2010 10:10 PM

Does anyone else feel like I do about SS's name? Super Saver . . . everytime I hear it I think I should be going to the grocery store. Who came up with that name for that colt and what is the meaning, if any? LOL

04 May 2010 10:11 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

    Besides the Preakness, Your Derby Recap is what I look forward to after the Kentucky Derby.  Once again, Well worth the wait, Thank You...

    One more thing, You sure did give a very special gift!  To the next Storm Cat, You must be very proud Mr. Haskin, Bravo...

04 May 2010 10:13 PM

Mr Haskin, I applaud another great article.  I particularly like the way you acknowledged the bad racing luck of some of the other colts (which may have cost them the race, or at least a better placing) without taking anything away from Super Saver's accomplishment.  Super Saver wasn't my choice through the spring; I was leaning toward Endorsement.  However, he was my pick in the post parade (along with Paddy O'Prado - I put an exacta bet on the pair - tough loss there!) I think his chances in the Preakness are very good, but expect the Belmont will be beyond his scope.  Some fresh shooter, or my likely one of the Derby horses that skips the Preakness, will come along and deny the fans a Triple Crown.

In regards to Rachel.  I think your comments that she is either not able to or not permitted to open up on the turn and distance the field this year, as last year, are valid.  I also think the Woodward took a tremendous amount out of her, including possibly her joy of running. I'll agree with some of the posts that she does not look like the same happy horse of 2009. However, I also believe her two races this year were good races.  She's still a very fast filly and I expect she will move forward.  Certainly her works leading up to the La Troienne were much better than her works leading up to the NO Ladies.  The field she faced last week was much stonger than the NOL field and she lost by less than a head to a filly that brought her "A" game.  I hope Rachel returns to her 2009 form because she thrilled me like no other horse (including Zenyatta) last year and I'd love to see her display that brilliance again.

04 May 2010 10:34 PM

Regarding Rachel, what is a mystery to me is why nobody seems to have noticed that a totally different trainer prepared her for 2010 than did for 2009.

Now, maybe Wiggins and Asmussen are peas in a pod and share the same style and philosophy and all and maybe the trainer doesn't mean a hill of beans, but it seems to me that it certainly is something worth exploring as regards Rachel's performance this year.

I wonder why nobody is?

04 May 2010 10:55 PM

steve as usual nice post. I had put up a post in another forum, but, not recieved any reply on my observation, but, would like your oppinion of it.

A question, am i missing something or what, its regarding the derby starting gate position, i had thought of this during the 2009 derby too, since the gate for the derby is placed not in the shoot but practically on the main track, and withoul any moveable railing it appears if the #1,2 horse breaks straight they litarelly have to shove the #3 horse to avoid running into the rail, if its true why do they not place the gate in such a position that all horses breaking straight should have no difficulty rather than run into , in this case the rail.

Am i missing something?

04 May 2010 11:07 PM
Nice Commentary

Steve I enjoyed your commentary on Derby day, I really did. Super Saver was my first ever derby bet and he came in, so it was a great weekend. (I should have bet race 6, on the 30th, had the winner pegged there too).

Regarding Rachel, she is the exact same horse. The same amazingly consistent horse. I truly believe that both sides of the debate "X-named great horse lost X number of times in their Handicap year" and "OMG send her to the Breeding Shed right now!" sound completely ridiculous. Her BSF's fall directly in line with her first two starts of 2009, despite all of her "team's" experiments with her. And I consider Steve's experiments the equivalent of an undergraduate Art Student painting over the Mona Lisa. I believe that what we're seeing right now is more of a result of what didn't happen more than what did. I saw a very cute picture of Rachel in the Saratoga paddock over the break, she looked highly  content but I wondered why she wasn't on a farm? Then she resumed jogging in late December. So that's an eight week "break". At a racetrack. Where the only thought going through a high class horses head is "Why can't I go out and play?" No mental break there.

04 May 2010 11:09 PM


I was looking forward to your recap column and it didn't dissappoint. Nice job as always.

Two comments on Lookin at Lucky:

He proves again what you have mentioned in the past, Smart Stikes horse are dead game and never give up

Second, he certainly has had bad luck but one thing is his fault or his connections. He constantly keeps getting pinched because other horses are beating him to the holes. They need to be more aggressive with him out of the gate to get him in good position.

Regarding the Preakness and Ice Box:

It is hard to use this Derby as a forecast for the Preakness. Between the mud bog, many bad trips and the perfect trip Super Saver had in my opinion it is almost a through out except for

Ice Box's run, which was truly amazing.  He was flying, got stopped cold and the flew some more. He was probably passing mostly dead horses but it was visually impressive. That most of the horses were dead was also proven by Garrett Gomez on Lucky when he said his horse wasn't giving him the effort like in the past and he was surprised when they picked up most of the field. He said Lucky only really ran about 1/8 of a mile. That should help him if he goes in the Preakness.

Like a few others have mentioned, I too am wondering what's up with Esky. I have the feeling we may have seen the last of him.  

04 May 2010 11:17 PM

It is always well worth the wait for your recaps, Steve.  Thank you for taking us behind the scenes where most of us will never have a chance to hang out.

05 May 2010 12:31 AM

As someone who sees racing from the perspective of races in many different countries I still don't understand the reasoning behind running such a substantial race in such atrocious conditions. It's bad for the horses, the racing public and racing in the USA as a whole. How many of us could even pick out our horse halfway up the straight. They all looked the same color, mud. As a spectacle of world wide interest The Kentucky Derby was a real let down this year. We may not be able to control mother nature but something should be done before we lose a great horse, or worse still, a great jockey.

05 May 2010 1:14 AM

TY Steve... for your insight, articles, and this blog... nice to have a place to post our thoughts and to express feelings and thanks...

Awaiting reading all your future posts in Bloodhorse. And, I suppose, SEE YA NEXT FEB. to see how your rating my 'potatoes'.  

05 May 2010 1:24 AM
Gary Lynn

By "real heroes" GARC, I take it you're referring to the unbeaten Zenyatta.

05 May 2010 3:18 AM
Gary Lynn

Last thought, vb22. Assume that Super Saver was named in anticipation of the trip Mr. Borel was prepared to give him Derby Day. He was a "Super Saver" of ground, and had it not been his name before, we could certainly, knowingly accept it today. Remember it that way. Now go rob an Irish grocery store. The nerve.

05 May 2010 4:40 AM

STEVE!!!!!! You are exactly right about Rachel. And Asmussen is pissing (sorry) me off putting that figure 8 on her and making  Calvin check her. They split a 49! She wants to run and like you said...tells the others catch me if you can. You make her wait for the other to rev up is STUPID on Asmussens part and I was saying that the whole race. Her father didnt wait he was also a free running horse that didnt do too bad :). I wish they would just let her run and stop worrying about getting her to rate and ready for other horses. LET THE GIRL RUN!!!!

Sorry but you said what was on my mind.

05 May 2010 8:42 AM
Derby Dew

Steve, you've done it again.  You've given us an in depth report of the Derby.  Your insights fill in the final strokes of the big picture.  I.e., I was unaware that Calvin was ill with heat exhaustion after riding the last race before the press conference.

Good job.  There was little news from the Awesome Act camp (my Derby bet) to explain his very disappointing performance.  It was finally reported that he came back lame with possible body soreness and bruised bones.  Hopefully, he can recover in time for the Travers.

05 May 2010 8:45 AM


Interesting observation about Rachel. In the final stages it looked like she dropped her head abruptly like off stride a little....and then the final steps it looked like she just held her head high and didnt drive into the finish. It was really weird seeing that. But I think they need to just let her run and get what you get from her. I still would like that bridle off...hate seeing her in looks so confining on her. The fans want to see her run like RACHEL! and I dont care what Gary says...the times might be the same but the interior racing is not.....and that is what made her the horse of the year last year....she is not a closer....she runs you in the ground thru the whole race. Like running a track race....if you go against someone in the 800 that normally runs the want to make them go faster than their comfort zone.....its like they are making Rachel wait for the other horses...Now lets race at the stretch....not smart on the connections part.

05 May 2010 8:56 AM
Michael D

Great I can see the whole race in my mind's eye.

05 May 2010 8:59 AM
Mike Relva


Hello and thanks! No,I only included the other blog to remain off for three months. I see the "genius" Zenyatta/MTB hater is still at it.

05 May 2010 9:04 AM

Steve, your article is most graceful and gracious.  Thank you for your invaluable insight.

To those who wonder about the complaints on NBC would understand why the complaints if only you had, years ago, watched ABC coverage with Jim McKay.  There was more respect and attention paid to the horses themselves.  There were no wasted moments.  PP's and bloodlines were covered, and the ratings were sky-high.  NBC was a pale imitation that catered less to the horse and more to the frivolous promotion of their own shows.

05 May 2010 9:13 AM

I meant to add, I agree with Steve.  Rachel A. is not the same, running with her head cocked to the side most times.  Does the figure 8 bridle have anything to do with this?

05 May 2010 9:15 AM
Bob Z

There have been a lot of comments about Rachel just not looking happy so far this year...

One thought was that she doesn't like the way she is being trained...

Does anybody know if there have been changes between this year and last year?   And when did that start?

I would have thought that if Rachel wasn't happy after she changed trainers that she wouldn't have performed as well as she did last year...

...  Ok maybe the Preakness because it was close to when she went to the new camp... but by the Haskell or the Woodward if she wasn't happy with the training regimen or the new oat mix I would think that it would have showed up by then...

Was the training consistent as far as scheduling all last year and maybe only changed to get ready for the New Orleans Ladies?

What I'm hoping for is that because of the accelerated training to get ready for the Apple Blossom ... it just threw her off rhythm ...

After the New Orleans Ladies I think that they went back to a training regimen similar to last year... And if you notice she ran pretty well at the "90%" that the management team said she was at...

So maybe with a few more weeks of the new (old) training regimen she will be back to her old self...

The Stephen Foster (if she runs in it) should tell us a lot...

If she isn't back to her old self by then then maybe there is something else going on here....

Maybe her body just changed to where she is just not the same horse...

Can anybody think of an example where a horse has a great 3 year old campaign and then while still being healthy as a 4 year old just doesn't have the same ability to "fire off" as when they were 3...

It probably happens a lot...

05 May 2010 9:28 AM
Bill Daly

Thanks for the tip about Zenyatta pointing for Belmont, Steve.  That should present an interesting challenge for her.  Sometimes that track can be extremely speed favoring, but usually quality overcomes such a bias.  I would love to see her take on males again in the JC Gold Cup. I don't see why the Mosses just don't run her exclusively against males?  She's certainly better than anything I've seen in the handicap ranks. Moreover, it would further embellish her credentials as one of the greatest mares to ever race here in America.

05 May 2010 9:32 AM
Mike Relva


Again, as usual great article,really enjoy your work. Question? Do you think any equipment changes/ tactics will be made for RA?

05 May 2010 9:39 AM

Aluminaut on Jason's blog came up with what I think is the solution to the "Saver" part of SS's name.

"Private Account" is in his pedigree. Makes sense to me! No grocery store there, only a big fat Super Savings Account!

Mike Relva,

What aggravates me is the amount of time and space the other bloggers devote to him. They're only giving him what he craves the most: attention!!!

05 May 2010 10:13 AM

Ice Box was by far the best horse, but as usual the best horse doesn't win. calvin was in the right spot at the right time, if he was riding MTB or Street again with the same ride he would have been stopped by a wall of horses. Seems Calvin is the man of Derby day. I'll take Ice Box in the Belmont all day long....

05 May 2010 10:14 AM

Excellent recap! Thank you for giving us the "rest of the story" that we wouldn't have any other way of knowing.

Now it's time to catch our collective breaths, and look toward the Preakness. I hope it's as entertaining as the Derby, but that's going to be a tough act to follow.

05 May 2010 10:15 AM

Bob Z -

Winning Colors!

05 May 2010 10:22 AM

Borel rode a horse in the mud last year for the win and the horse didn't win another race all year.

We could see another repeat of that this year.

05 May 2010 10:48 AM

Steve, Unlike alot of people on here , I don't see her running like last year,  I think she stayed in the barn too long and she isn't giving them what they want with her in her running.  I also think she gave them all she had last year and they took advantage of her being so young. JJ can only blame himself for this.  She was happy and lively at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year to present time, she doesnt' seem to be happy.    

I'm sorry but I dont' forsee her getting better,  I forsee her doing what she is doing now and thats going to be the best they are going to get. She has been giving them to many good works and still not firing when needed,  I say what you see now and have seen in her two previous races is what you are going to get.

Mike Relva:   Hey Bud,  Glad to see you on this blog.  

05 May 2010 10:59 AM
Bill Daly

Perhaps Jackson and Asmussen should have heeded Horatio Luro's motto: "Don't squeeze the lemon dry."  Rachel laid her body down time after time last year and did things no other 3 yr old filly has ever done.  To me that's the reason she hasn't been able to reproduce her form from last year.

05 May 2010 11:03 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

Steve...and to a lesser degree...Mike Relva,

I hope we can agree that the final times of Rachel's first two races this year have been in line with, if not better than, her races on these same two tracks last year.  

And I hope we can agree that added weight (carried) does make a difference in a race. The object of the weight is to slow a better horse down so that a lesser runner has a better chance of winning.  I firmly believe that Rachel took advantage of this last year, and now her rivals are taking advantage of it this year against her.    

I would not discount that Rachel is not at her best, nor would I say that she looks perfectly comfortable in her first two races back this year.  But having said that, her final times are in line with what she did last year on these same tracks, especially if we take into account the added weight she is toting.  The difference is - at least in part - that her female rivals have received weight breaks against her and two have barely run her down.  At equal weights, I think Rachel beats them and is the better horse.  

Running Rachel down is not unprecedented, even giving you her faster half mile times last year.  MTB was gaining fast even after a questionable ride, and Macho Again pushed her to the max - giving her 5 and 8 pounds respectively.

On most tracks, Rachel runs 9 furlongs in 1:48 and change, at 121 pounds.  This was fast enough to earn very nice Beyers last year.  I think it is pushing expectations - and her abilities - beyond the point of credibility to expect her to run faster than this with even more weight this year.

Maybe you both are totally correct.  Maybe Rachel runs faster earlier in her upcoming races and wins clear.  But look at her Oaks win and her Woodward win from last year.  The final times were 1:48.87 without competition at Churchill (108 Beyer), and 1:48.29 being pushed to the max by Macho Again.  Now add weight to her (124 pounds say).  I don't expect her to run as fast a final time, no matter what her split times are.

The perspective that I thought was lacking from the writers and commentators last year was the fact that Rachel was really living on the edge.  Yes, she blew away some lesser female competition, but holding off MTB and Musket Man was tough.  Tougher than most wanted to admit I think, because they held MTB and MM in lower esteem than they should have (in my opinion).  Holding off Macho Again was awfully tough too, and she just barely hung on while getting 8 pounds!

Now she has to give weight to others, and the female competition is tougher.  I hope she comes back 120%, so we can all agree that she's 100%.  But how fast will she have to run to prove that?  Had she won these last two races, what would people be writing?  And that's my point to you Steve.  You said that you didn't explicitly say the sport needed perfection.  That's correct, but I infer that you wrote that her defeat was a "blow to the sport" because it was a defeat.  I'm sure - you faster than any one else - would say the same things about her behavior even if she had won the race.  

But my original issue of perspective deals with Rachel's true quality (and the real quality of all these athletes).  I thought she was hands down the 3 YO Filly Champion, but that's all.  

Regarding perspective, how can Super Saver run a 2:04.45 on a sloppy sealed track, and MTB run on a very similar track last year in 2:02.66, and their Beyers be almost identical (104 vs. 105)???  Interesting isn't it?  The Churchill Downs Stakes was won in a time of 1:22.54 on the Derby undercard this year.  Is that really slow for 7 furlongs?  

Gary Lynn, Zenyatta is an obvious "yes" here.  She is one of the best horses to ever run in my opinion.  But there are other heroes too.  To me MTB is one of these (it's not all about winning every race), and I look forward to his return this year.      

05 May 2010 11:08 AM

Regarding the NBC coverage and the value of "fluff".

The problem with their overage wasn't the "fluff" ( though it was a waste of my time) but the emphasis.


They had Penny Chenery, the "First Lady of Racing", and Diane Lane, star of the upcoming movie "Secretariat".

NBC only allotted them a couple of min uses and two softball questions each.

And then they put on Joe Torre, at most a bit player on this day whose claim to fame was that he owned ten percent of a horse that probably shouldn't have been there anyway, and wasn't even at the track.

They let Joe go on and on and half the questions didn't even have anything to do with the race.

I found that highly offensive.

On big race days, I generally spend several hours in front of the tube watching all the coverage.

I'm not going to do that again. I'm going to give the networks the half hour surrounding the race and that's it.

Maybe Joe Torre is a bigger "get" on Derby day that Penny Chenery, I don't know. But not for me.

05 May 2010 11:30 AM
Fran Loszynski

Great column Steve. Calvin is a Louisiana jockey. A farm boy at heart. He knows his stuff.  I've always said he reminds me of a 1930's jockey and Seabiscuit! (I lost my beautiful Seabiscuit pin somewhere that day, really bumming because I loved it)

It was something to see Dublin and Backtalk walk out together on the turf, I saw in my mind Afleet Alex and Smarty Jones and ended up in tears, for me that was "my Derby". What a coincidence they both fell in position 17 and 18!!.I feel Dublin can win the Belmont because he only needed a longer race. I still have faith in him.

05 May 2010 12:08 PM

Gary at Rough Creek,

Excellent post! As usual!


I was also very disappointed by the segment featuring Penny Chenery. Not only was it too short, but the emphasis was on Diane Lane (a very good actress, in my opinion) and not on one of the greatest horsewoman in the history of racing. SAD!!!

I agree that HRTV and TVG should not be kept out of broadcasting the KD and the races preceding it. However that would reduce the ratings for NBC's coverage and give the impression that horseracing is attracting less and less viewers. It's a no win proposition, no matter how you look at it. Our only hope is for NBC to do a better job... or a switch back to ABC (if they can do better). ESPN, available to most people, does a pretty good job. At least they feature people who know something about racing, even if we don't like them or don't agree with their opinions.

05 May 2010 12:46 PM
El Kabong


Let me see if I have this right.

Borel + Mud + (insert derby horse) = No more wins.

You're a funny man, and Math is hard, so go shovel a stall.

That horse is going to win by at least 5 lengths on a fast surface, and I don't care who shows up. But please, pretty please, with sugar on top, don't tell us you had a C-note on him after the fact.

05 May 2010 1:11 PM

Great article Steve. Your incite into all aspects of the sport keeps me coming back for more. This blog seperates itself from others by rising above the childish rants I see elsewhere and sticking to the message of what a great sport we have to enjoy. Thank you for that as well.

Mike Relva,

Good to see you here. The self proclaimed "genius" is taking quite a beating over on the darkside in the "other" blog. It's about time people woke up to him.    

05 May 2010 1:13 PM

I agree on a jockey change for Lucky.  Not that Gomez has done anything specifically wrong, he's still a great jock.  But it's like hockey teams who change head coaches so often.  Sometimes a change is just needed for change's sake.  It can't hurt, well, maybe GG's feelings, but he'll get over it.

05 May 2010 1:14 PM
Bob Z

JJ interview after the La Troienne

"So she was only 80% in New Orleans."

"I'm not pushing her... She will let us know when she wants to run"

So I guess you weren't listening to her in New Orleans.. eh?

"Went wide on the first turn and thats what lost it..."

She lost because she is not at 100% not because she went wide on the first turn... I just watched it again... she is 2nd and could have been a few feet closer but she wasn't strung out there...

Then again she only lost by a nose so ... maybe he is right on this...

but she wasn't too wide.. but could have been a little bit more inside..

"She needs another race or 2 before she is back"

"After a 6 month layoff you don't ask a horse to come back."

In response to "Did you give Calvin any instructions?"

JJ... "I didn't.  I don't know if Steve did.."

Last race the instructions were to keep her rated until the 1/16 pole (I think) and then let her go... and according to Calvin she was ready to run and could have moved away at any time in the Ladies...

I would love to know what the instructions were that Steve gave to Calvin if any...

In response to "Will Calvin keep the mount?"

JJ  "Thats something that Steve and I need to discuss."

05 May 2010 1:33 PM
Karen in Indiana

Zookeeper, I agree with you on all points. What I've been doing is watching NBC and ESPN (even watched Bravo on Oaks day, it was better this year than last) and DVRing HRTV. Then I can go back and watch the recordings for real commentary. Just trying to do my part to keep ratings up on the others.

05 May 2010 1:54 PM

Correction to a prior post:

Numbered Account (dam of Private Account) is in SS's pedigree.

I had my accounts mixed up. lol!

05 May 2010 1:59 PM
Lin F.

Wonderful article Steve - very enjoyable to hear some behind the scenes tidbits and your thoughts. Your love of the horses and racing really shines. Thank you-

05 May 2010 2:19 PM

Bob Z,

Thank you for the link to the interview with Jess Jackson. I'm sorry to say that the more I see of him the less I like him. Hated that vague answer about Calvin. I'm also sick of the expression "she will tell us when she's ready". What has she been "saying" so far? "I'm not ready but put me in the race anyway and I'll see what I can do."?

I'm sorry to be so negative about the man but I find him insufferable no matter how hard he tries to be pleasant. It's unfair on my part, I know, but I can't help the way I feel! Love the horse, can't stand the man!

05 May 2010 2:24 PM

Well said-even though my husband had $20 on Super Saver and I had Exacta on SS & Ice Box, I still want that superfecta on Derby Day. Will try for it in Baltimore when we know the field.  Keep up good work, Steve!  Read you each week in BLOODHORSE.

05 May 2010 2:37 PM

In response to "Will Calvin keep the mount?"

JJ  "Thats something that Steve and I need to discuss."

Sounds like JJ, Steve and Rachel need to sit down and have a whole lotta discussions to me, since they seem to be over talking each other.  

Lets see, Rachel tells them when she is ready, 'Well, apparently you ain't listening to her'

It seems Mr. JJ , you and your team need to be talking to each other instead of grandstanding after the races and trying to place blame on everything and everyone else.

It seems that Rachel belongs to a very disfuntional team.  Or she has got them totally baffled so much that they are speechless.

05 May 2010 3:06 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Do they allow a .10 superfecta bet on the Derby? I'm quite new to this game and had no idea if they do or not. Just wondering if the Derby is exempt from that wager or if they take the bet like in other races. I tried to play it on an automated machine and it wouldn't take, lines were too long at the window by then to get a bet in. My total well exceeded the $1 minimum they advertise. Thanks for your response!!  

05 May 2010 3:08 PM

Just had to add my admiration to your writing, Steve.  Your perceptions, observations, and interesting side stories are most welcome.  It made it much more personal, like I was actually there.

As for Rachel, I hope Jess Jackson reads your article and the fans' comments that follow.

Gary, I agree with your points about Mine That Bird.  He did not get his due from the sports writers, (except for Steve, both before the Derby and after), and the general public.

Rachel looks stressed out.

05 May 2010 3:36 PM
Mike Relva


Dude,it's NOT the rider,it's the horse! RA was overextended last year,no doubt!

05 May 2010 3:47 PM
Mike Relva


Thanks for the kind words. Enjoy reading your posts always. I'm sick of him and his continued slamming of Zenyatta and MTB. Just tell me he wouldn't give his right arm to own either one of them! What a phony "spin doctor". His problems are far greater than his inability in cashing a ticket. Anyone that rants and slams an innocent animal NEEDS professional tending to! He gets away with far too much on that other blog.

05 May 2010 3:53 PM

Steve-Others have asked the same question I have: has there been a diagnosis of Eskendereya's problem? Would you please try to find out what is happening with him at this point.

I totally agree that a 20 horse field is much too big. And I personally very much dislike the NBC version of horse race coverage. I want to see the horses, trainers and jockeys covered--NOT the latest NBC stars in their $2,000 hats and $8,000 suits. ABC did a much better job!!

Great Derby article--thank you for your insights and your way of putting a humanizing touch on everything. I love your writing style and your obvious heartfelt concern for the horses.

05 May 2010 3:55 PM
Jeanne T.

Steve, I just really love all your little persectives about the race that transpire into a tremendously- told story.  You surely have a gift to tell a story so each one of us feels we were right there with you.  All of Calvin's emotions so lift us all up to true heights.  I would be crazy with joy and love.  Keep 'em coming.  

05 May 2010 4:54 PM

Thanks for the link to the interview with JJ.  I thought this was the most open, straightforward footage I've seen with him and I don't understand the criticism. He says in regards to the question of Calvin, "PROBABLY, that is something SA and I have to discuss".  You left off the probably, and also the fact that that is a decision the trainer would be very involved in.  Makes perfect sense to me.  And ditto the race instructions, that's between SA and CB.  As to her being ready (and the comment, she will tell us), he was referring to a top notch effort, 10 lengths better than she was at Churchill (which would put her in the 110 Beyer range - anotherwords, back where she was at her PEAK, last summer).  I have not always been enamored with how JJ "presents" to the public eye, but IMHO, this was a good, open interview and he deserves credit for it.  Bring on Steve Asmussen for an interview!  ;)

05 May 2010 4:55 PM
Steve Haskin

Barthart, you should know something in the next couple of days.

05 May 2010 5:27 PM

Great article!!  You can't help being happy for Calvin - I hadn't heard a thing about his ride after.  How scary for him.  Just shows how dedicated he is.  I was really impressed with Ice Box flying up at the end.  It was impressive and Zito's comment was just perfect.  "We'll be waiting for home."  Can't wait to see them all at Pimlico.  They are great to the fans there, with Sunrise at Old Hilltop.  I love it every year.  Can't wait to see Super Saver in the flesh.  These few weeks are just the most fun!  

05 May 2010 5:38 PM


Your honesty is appreciated. I see you found an escape tunnel back into blogland, thanks to Steve Haskin.  Welcome back.

I haven't seen either COLDFACTS, FORBIDDEN APPLE or CARLOS IN CALI since the Derby and wondered if they were helping you dig underground (LOL).  Todd Pletcher and Super Saver apparently did them in.  Johnny V had the filly Devil May Care in a very threatening position turning for home in the Derby so just immagine if Esky was in the race ...he would've turned it into a funeral procession and those guys would be needing more time than they do now to recover from Super Saver's workmanlike victory.

05 May 2010 6:20 PM
Hard Knocker

Steve, great column, but not because you "summed up The Derby". It's a story about life and lives ! Adversity can be a great teacher and as I tell my children it's not how many times you get knocked down , it's how many times you get up.

Racing is a tough game and a disfunctional business. I've owned a couple race horses in partnerships and individually. Wins , soundness and profits are elusive at best. Racing is it's own worst enemy. Too many "individual" agenda's. Maybe, and unfortunately not liely, if they listened to President Kennedy's words that "a rising tide lifts all boats" they wouldn't all be looking for so many oars. Time is of the essence. The "insiders" need to get it together and fast.  Zenyatta's, Rachel's and Borel's don't come along every day. Barbaro, Smarty Jones , and Eight Belles provided them opportunites to be embraced by the public, fans and bettors. They squandered them and the downward cycle persists. "Build it" and they will come. Who will be tomorrow's stars if nobody cares ? Is it a sport ? Is is entertainment ? Who cares ! It is what it is to each individual. Just get and keep them interested for more than 5-6 weeks year (Triple Crown)per year !

What do you think ?

05 May 2010 7:32 PM
John from N.J.

I will simply echo the thanks and sentiments of other posters with respect to the quality of prose and unique perspective you share with the readers in your annual Derby recap. As of this moment, assuming Super Saver remains on his game, he will be tough to beat at Pimlico no matter the opposition or track condition. It could be a differnet scenario, as we've seen in past years, when the Belmont rolls around. Have you heard of any plans for Setsuko? It looked like he ran OK on the turf last Friday at Churchill, closing in the lane, but 1 1/16 mi. is not his best distance. I thought the connections knew the colt needed to race; I don't think they entered him beileving he needed to win. That race, followed by some dirt works, could set him up for a run in the Belmont Stakes. Do you hsave a sense as to what Setsuko's connections might have in mind for him over the short term?

05 May 2010 7:35 PM
Ida Lee

If JJ drops Calvin from Queen Rachel, I will go into a royal snit not seen since Summer Bird was taken from Tim Ice. (It was not pretty!!) As to Rachel's loss, my feathers were ruffled but so what. She's bigger and heavier and needs more time. She'll be fine and she'll come back as good as ever. She is after all Rachel. Also, General Quarters big win went a long way to soothing my ruffled feathers at Rachel's loss. I was so happy for Mr. McCarthy. I remember him and his horse well from last year and the dissapointment at the Derby and GQ getting hurt and everything. But one thing was certain and it came across back then and now. You can feel the adoration and pride Mr. McCarthy has for his beautiful and talented horse. And of course Blind Luck had a great race too as did one of my favorites Evening Jewel. I was even happy for Unbridled Belle also one of my favorite fillies. All in all, it was a great weekend of racing. On to the Preakness ....

05 May 2010 8:03 PM

can someone comment on if the #1&#2 horse in the derby came straight out the gate(there being no removable rail placed)would those 2 horses be able to stay on the main track or run into the railing? pause the video just before they approach the railing.

appreciate a comment on this.

05 May 2010 8:51 PM

Steve, there is nothing more I could add to the superlatives that everyone else has noted about your article - it is such a beautiful representation of your insight into the Derby, so I will simply say thank you for sharing it with us.  If you do think about it, though, Winstar does have just the tiniest bit of a fairy tale air to their story because these two gentlemen who founded it came up through the ranks so to speak, to achieve what they have with their farm, their horses.  They are some of the "connections" whose horses I follow because I love the way they have seemed to truly care about the animals.  Not trying to be ugly, but it's hard to picture Jess Jackson getting into a pool with an injured horse to help it recover by swimming, which is what Mr. Casner did in order to get Well Armed back to the races earlier in his career.  Not exactly Cinderella, but still, these guys have not had it handed to them either, so Super Saver was one horse I was definitely rooting for based partly on that as well as your comments on him along the way, plus his pedigree.  Can he win the Triple Crown like Calvin says?  I don't know, but it would certainly be wonderful if it happened and I would be absolutely thrilled.

Thank you, also, for sharing your daughter's talent's with us, too.  You are the best!

05 May 2010 10:26 PM


Super Saver was in the #2 spot. Yet he didn't get into the kind of trouble Lucky was confronted with. I think the reason is that Borel got him out of the gate and on his way before the giant crush happened. Gomez did not or could not. As Borel said: "You have to have the horse!" May I add that "you have to have the jockey" who knows all that and acts accordingly, doing his darnest to get his horse out of there before the problems start.

I do wish that someone in the know would clarify this business about the rail and the #1 & #2 spots. It could be an optical illusion. I kind of doubt that CD would create this kind of "disaster ready to happen". The size of the field provides enough opportunity for an accident without CD making it practically unavoidable at the start of the race. Just a thought!

05 May 2010 11:30 PM

Regarding Derby post positions, I have a friend in the thoroughbred business who wrote to Churchill a couple of years ago and suggested the horses get to select post positions in order of their graded earnings. This would give the horses who have shown the most and are probably the favorites a fair shot. He asked them what they would think about Nascar putting all their fastest cars at the rear of the start. I like the idea. Any thoughts?

05 May 2010 11:34 PM
Bob Z

"She needs another race or 2 before she is back"

"After a 6 month layoff you don't ask a horse to come back."

You did... for a 5 million dollar purse... and before she was ready as she was only at 80% for the New Orleans...

I don't get it... these are not first year horse players...

How can you say on one hand that you don't bring a horse back after a 6 month layoff and then commit to running in the Apple Blossom without knowing where she is in her fitness...

... can't be the money... probably a case of just wanting to have your horse in the biggest race in decades and getting over excited with the prospect...

The reason why Steve has been quiet and not forth coming with details and concerns is because of the personalities involved... (just my opinion)

... sort of reminds me of George Steinbrenner in the mid 70's with how he ran the Yankee organization... if you want to keep your job training the current Horse of the Year you keep you mouth shut.. do your job and let the owner field the questions...

If there WAS going to be a change I would think the jockey would be the last thing to change....

Its not the jockeys fault that the horse isn't fit...

"Its all about conditioning, this was her race to get into condition"

I hate to keep saying it but then what were you thinking when you were presented with running at the Apple BLossom?

Obviously if a horse hasn't seriously trained there is going to be a condition issue...

Sorry to be voicing my frustration... I just want to see Rachel have some blow out races with the old acceleration and then get excited about a possible matchup with Zenyatta...

I know its a hassle to travel cross country with a horse but if I was Team Zenyatta I would wait to announce where she is running until a week before the race and then say that she is running in the Stephen Foster...   and then leave it up to Team Rachel to decide if they are running in it...

JJ said in the video that Rachel is not ready to meet Zenyatta...

By Zenyatta running in the Foster at Churchill she will have run in 2 races outside of California, Arkansas and Kentucky... which negates the argument that she just runs in California....  then maybe a trip to Saratoga or Belmont in New York in the Fall ...

Between the Foster (June 12th) and a fall run in New York, and I'm sure wanting to run in front of her own fans... once or twice there doesn't leave a whole lot space to run against Rachel unless they meet in the fall in New York...

By Zenyatta running in the Foster I think it simplifies their strategy for the rest of the year... 2 races in Califoirnia, 1 race in New York in the fall and then the Breeders Cup...

You know their thinking HOY.  By running in the Foster with Rachel able but probably not showing because she isn't ready... that would make 2 races where they could have met but didn't because Rachel was able but just not ready...

If that happens Rachel would have to hit some serious home runs to get back to parity with Zenyatta...

05 May 2010 11:48 PM
Gary Lynn've got the 'track' metaphor twisted. RA is the 800 specialist they are trying to slow down to get the 1600 (plus another 400..UH OH!) in the Classic this year at Churchill. Her speedy style won't cut it against real Classic horses.  GARC...I dig Mind That Bird. But there are he-roes, and there are her-oes.

06 May 2010 1:16 AM

I will always remember this mediocre race b/c of the jockey's ride, not the horse's run, but it'll still be a fun spree to see if we have a TC winner, though I am still rooting for Paddy O'Prado as I did in the Derby. WHAT a run...he's just a nice horse. And Ice Box is out but I'm glad "they" seem to be taking it easy for the horse's sake. And I see, though not to my surprise, that probably all of you think the 20-horse field is like a pointless replication of wildebeest going across the Amazon! Seriously though, Calvin has a devotion and a skill that combines for something uncanny when it's needed. However, I'll remember General Quarters' race far more than the Derby. I was bouncing up and down on the couch and crying in excitement until he crossed the finish line.

06 May 2010 1:17 AM

Look out! I'm feeling moody.

Steve, Could you please comment on Calvin Borel's whip? I have seen bloggers comment negatively about the way he whips the horses so hard. I heard he uses a "kind" whip that does not hurt the horse, only makes noise. Can you confirm this? I can't imagine him hurting a horse and I would like to set the record straight when I run across these comments.

Also thank you for questioning what has happened to Rachel and commenting on this. Someone needs to. Jackson & Asmussen have been allowed to make their comments unchallenged too long. I did not feel this way previously.

Sodapopkid and others who believe JJ & SA have used & abused (my words) Rachel, I agree. They did run on the foundation that Hal Wiggins built and ran her like there was no tomorrow. I caught JJ in lies in the Apple Blossom mess and I don't like the way he likes to scapegoat others.

I have little respect for Asmussen for not giving her the rest Wiggens told him she needed in between races and for trying to speed up her training after such a long lay off. He just admitted that was a mistake and said he was going back to once a week works like last year, DUH! He has created an unhappy horse.

***What I would really like to know is why they layed her off for so many months when they were planning to race her this year. Why would a hot shot trainer do that?

Why was she kept in a stall at a racetrack instead of being given some pasture time during her long break? My neighbor has a few Standardbreds that he keeps in the stall 24/7, no workouts, no racing and he's one of the most evil people I know. Maybe this has colored my opinion in a negative way or possibly it has given me insight into the kind of horseman that would do this. I cannot understand why they could not give her some pasture time.

I guarantee the barns she stayed in were not happy barns like John  Sherriff's where there is lots of laughter and the horses are pampered.

I think Rachel is a commodity to be used and an ego booster. The more I learn, the more they disgust me. This "Rachel will tell us" is total BS. They have not listened to that poor girl in a long time! They need to call in a Horse Whisperer. Nah, that's not necessary. They just need someone with some horse sense. Would they listen?

06 May 2010 1:24 AM
Gary Lynn

Gary aRC...That's The Beyer system, bro...buyer beware! I, probably unlike many, went back and re-watched RA's races from last year (ironically enough after going to You Tube to e-mail a friend a Zenyatta"s Classic win). Everyone should do this. Her HOY was deserving. There. She had the disadvantage of "being forgotten" (an American trait?...what have you done for me lately) ending her year in August. Zenyatta continued to add to her body (literally) of work, and her Breeders Cup Win was unparalleld; times/weights...blah, blah...she is supposed to move FORWARD to handle all this. So far, no go!

06 May 2010 2:04 AM
Gary Lynn you have one? aren't you special. Not nearly as special as Joe Torre who although not a twenty-THREE year old superstar, was a fine player in his day, The fact that you did not like the coverage is not JT's fault. Being a tvsnewsbadge wearer, you should realize this. I watched him play in the fifties, boy!

06 May 2010 2:13 AM
Gary Lynn

Lane / Chenery...more to the point Zookeeper.

06 May 2010 2:24 AM

thks zookeeper

FYI #2 was ice box.

Also, why does CD not use the removable railing for the start of this race?

I would wish if someone in the media look at this and comment(preferably steve).

06 May 2010 6:24 AM


when I said the 800 (because they ran 1 1/16) I was stating that they are trying to teach her to relax to be able to run the 1600 but they entered her in a 800 race. therefore she needs to run the 800. If they want to see her in a 1 1/4 race, ENTER IT and see how she runs. The tactic change is to run longer distances but they are doing the new tactics in a shorter race which will not teach her to run in the longer race. It might be easier for her to relax in a longer race because you will not have the 2 horses (be fair and the other NO ladies handicap "rabbits" who faded to finish last in both races pushing the pace. The pace scenario is totally different in the 1 1/4 race and might allow her to get an easy lead.

06 May 2010 8:51 AM

Hasn't anyone realized it yet?  UNBRIDLED Belle retired last year. She is now 7 and was by Broken Vow. The horse that won the La Troianne is UNRIVALED BELLE. She is 4 and is by Unbridled Song.  Both sires were by Unbridled.

Moody Girl..It's called a "popper" because it makes the sound but doesn't have the sting of a regular whip.  That's what Calvin used in the Woodward.

06 May 2010 9:10 AM


Thanks for the correction! Darn I hate it when I make a mistake like that! Some people refer to this as a senior moment... I plead guilty.

06 May 2010 9:41 AM


Would you share your thoughts on whether you think that the Graded Earnings System was again vindicated by the results of this years Kentucky Derby?  It is of note that Super Saver never won any of his two 3YO prep races but built his form upon a strong 2YO foundation which many of the Change-advocates (perhaps including yourself) wanted to discount in favour of 3YO prep form.  

06 May 2010 9:50 AM
Gary Lynn

I for one like that idea, Smart Strike.

06 May 2010 10:08 AM
Gary Lynn

Sorry Shane, I get it now. RA does not get a mile and a quarter though.

06 May 2010 10:18 AM

Steve - I haven't turned on the pc in a few days and just saw your response to my question about Zenyatta at Belmont. Thank you so much for the info.  I'll keep a lookout for NYRA's calendar and news.

Have a great day!


06 May 2010 10:20 AM


Stan Bergstein of the DRF wrote a searing condemnation of Borel's use of the whip in his column of May 4th. Here's some quotes from his article:

"I had cleaned the screen on my home TV to make sure I had a clear picture, and I counted eight hard blows in the final eight and at least 14 from the head of the stretch to the wire. I may have missed a few before Borel and Super Saver cleared the pack, but he worked the colt over pretty good."

"I went back and read at least 25 post-Derby reviews, all drooling over Borel's skillful ride without one mention of his whip artistry. No one I know of bothered to check to see if there were welts on Super Saver after the Derby, but Borel was giving the best whacks his arm could deliver."

I had a similar reaction, last year, after the Woodward and wrote about it on one of Jason's blog: "Personally, I hated the race! Too much whip action for me. No horse deserves the kind of punishment Rachel Alexandra received in that race." Boy! did I regret these words as a few comments later, Calvin's fiancee (at the time) Lisa set me (and a few others) STRAIGHT!!!

She informed us that Calvin uses this new whip that makes more noise than it inflicts pain and damage. She wrote touchingly of Calvin's love for the horse and that he would NEVER hurt her. Her words expressed the pain she felt at our unfair and uninformed condemnation of Calvin.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: find out the facts before you engage your keyboard. I apologized profusely, in a later comment, but the damage was done. Lisa and Calvin were deeply hurt by my (and others) ignorant bloggings.

Maybe Mr. Bergstein will learn a similar lesson. I sure hope so. With friends like him, horse racing doesn't need any enemies. You would think that since he makes a living within the industry that he would be better informed than most of us. Obviously he isn't.

Moodygirl, I second your request that Mr. Haskin write about this and set the record straight.

The whipping is visually offensive and I can see that it would turn off quite a few potential new fans. That why CORRECT INFORMATION is badly needed on this topic.

Mr. Haskin, what say you?

06 May 2010 10:59 AM
El Kabong


I saw Jerry Baily do a spot on tv about that very issue. The camera angle and Baily, confirmed that horses in the 1 & 2 do need to get out and move over or drop back to avoid a run in with the rail. It does seem foolish to build in such a predicament but at least they know it before the gates open. However,  it did not cause Lucky's problem in my opinion. A spot on the rail opened up when Super Saver accelerated out on the rail. The horses who were in the middle and moving toward the rail saw that and wanted that spot . It was Lucky's for the taking and Gomez passed. You won't convince me he didn't have the horse-lucky has speed and agility.So Instead, half  way down the stretch, far from what can be considered the start of the race, he got pinched when two horses moving towards the rail from the middle from posts 6 & 10, pinched him in their effort to get that spot. Mud was flying and it's not like they have power steering, but it's a spot that should NEVER have been available in the first place. The funnel of 20 horses into that first turn guarantees elbows every year so it should be no surprise to anyone. Move it or drop back. Horses are going to move down toward the rail every year. I just hope Kent had the bayou class to hollah out,  Par-don me.

06 May 2010 11:01 AM

Excellent article Steve, I think its great when a home bred wins the primo race of the year because they are really the backbone of this industry. The storyline behind NP is also what makes this business great(and if the Derby didn't take too much out of him will be SS's main competition in the Preakness)but I'm sure his connections were livin the dream just to be there. Now to contrast these two you have people like J.Jackson who let their ego's get in the way of the true star, their horses. I agree with you about not letting Rachal run the way she wants and learned how. Just look at the 2008 Belmont where Big Brown could of run those horses into the ground but the jock had his own agenda on how to win the race when the horse already knew how! Maybe Rachel's previous connections were right about not running her against males or least not so early in the season but again someone else had an ego to satisfy and the horse came in second!      

06 May 2010 11:51 AM
Port Stanley

El Kabong - According to Gomez, he wasn't the one that passed on the hole, it was Lookin At Lucky. Gomez said that Lookin At Lucky makes a lot of his bad luck because he is intimidated by other horses. Gomez said that there was room on the rail for Lookin At Lucky, but he wouldn't go there.

06 May 2010 2:03 PM

Port Stanley,

Yes, I read that blog written by Gomez on ESPN's website. I found it a little strange that the jockey would blame the horse. I commented about it on one of these blogs (can't remember which one) that both horse and jockey seem to have lost confidence in each other and that I doubted that the relationship could be mended. I concluded that it might be time for a divorce.

El Kabong,

I respect your opinions tremendously. You always seem to know what you're talking about. If there is such a trap built-in the Derby, I'm at a loss for words!

Did you read the Gomez blog? Could you comment on it? I would like to know you opinion on this. You approach things in a more logical manner than I can.

06 May 2010 2:33 PM
El Kabong

Port, Zoo

Good info, I did not see that.

Well who am I to refute Gomez, and like Calvin said, "you gotta have the horse." Garrett's a standup guy and they both live to ride another day. If Garrett said he wouldn't go, that's all I need to hear. He'll(LOL) run big again when he feels like it. Great horse and we haven't seen the last of him, I'm sure of that.

06 May 2010 3:12 PM
Port Stanley

Zookeeper - is it inconceivable that the horse may be at least partially to blame? We are always quick to blame the jockey. If the horse doesn't want to go inside and he's in the one hole, what's he supposed to do?

06 May 2010 3:17 PM
EL Kabong


Here's some irony you'll enjoy. A few years back, the connections of Hard Spun felt that maybe it was Pino's fault that Hard Spun wasn't winning, so the change was made in the Belmont to........Gomez. Results, not good. Point being not that Gomez is a bad rider, but that Jocks get the finger quite a bit, especially on these high priced 3 year olds who have not established firm behavior. So, back to Pino they went with small apology to all. Pino new Hard Spun better than Gomez and the reverse I'm sure. These animals can develop a trust with certain Jockeys. Bafferts the only one who can detemine whether or not he thinks Lucky doesn't trust Gomez, but it may  take a race or two for anyone to ride him successfully. He's been pinned on the rail twice now. He's definitely going to be rail shy for sure.

06 May 2010 3:38 PM

Thanks for the great article Steve.  I have a feeling that had Calvin Borel rode ZIPPY CHIPPY, in the Kentucky Derby, he would have won. Calvin is talented, and he knows Churchill. My question is this; If the other jocks KNOW that Calvin will hug the rail, why dont they do more to stop Calvin, or a least beat him to it. In an interview I saw after the race, one of the jocks acted as tho it was a pre gone conclusion that Calvin would win because of his style. My reaction was: "But dont YOU want to win"? Seriously, what if any advice would there be to give to the other jocks, going up against Calvin? Also, I admire Calvins good hearted nature, but does he have to bawl? To shed a few happy tears is ok, but he bawls like a baby, and as a woman (who cant stand to see a man cry)I feel embarrassed for him. (sorry) :)

06 May 2010 3:43 PM
Gary Lynn

Wonder if Bo's Lisa speaks from personal experience...

06 May 2010 3:55 PM

Port Stanley,

No, it's not inconceivable. I just haven't seen too many jockeys write a blog about it. They usually concentrate on putting the blame on the other horses, not the one they were riding. lol!

Garrett Gomez is an excellent jockey and before the race I commented that Lucky's post position was the worst I could imagine. I wasn't bent on blaming Gomez, I'm trying to make sense of what happened and to learn from it. God knows that the multiple problems that Lucky has encountered (especially in the SA Derby) could have made him fearful of the rail.

Is it your opinion that Gomez is the best fit for that horse at this time? I would really like to read your thoughts on that.

El Kabong,

Thank you for answering me. I like Lucky a lot and I hope you're right about his future.  :)

06 May 2010 4:05 PM
T. A. Yamada

Steve Haskin -

    After Super Saver's two prep races in 2010, I lost confidence in the horse's chances to win Kentucky Derby 136.

    However, the important pieces of the puzzle fell into place for Super Saver in the last seven days leading up to the Derby.

    First, there were the unfortunate casulties/defections.  Then, post positions were drawn.  Favorable for some and not so lucky for others.  Next, on the morning of race day, the skies opened up and the rains came.  The Churchill Downs main track looked like Mississippi mud.  Super Saver had no tractions problems on this slick surface.

    Finally, incredibly, the son of Maria's Mon changed running tactics, settling well of the quick, early pace, and drawing clear through much of the home stretch.

    Super Saver has now posted a two-for-two lifetime record at CD.

If the connections don't overrace the colt this summer, he can become a serious factor in October for Breeder's Cup XXVII.

T.A. Yamada

06 May 2010 4:51 PM

If Mr. JJ takes Calvin off Rachel, I'm going to track Mr. JJ down and sing the theme song from The Grinch to him.  

Stink, Stank, Stunk!!

Maybe I'll sip a glass of Kendall-Jackson wine while doing it.

HRTV reran the Across the Board episode with Calvin which was taped in March.  Every word he said was so sincere.  He has so much love for the people in his life who stand by him and support him.  It's so nice to hear.

06 May 2010 4:56 PM

EL Kabong the horse you are talking about is #2 Ice Box.Both he & LAL if were running straight I mean straight out of the gate would have run into the rail, thats where the problem started but a few yards later Super Saver took over the rail. I'm sure those bumps took something out of LAL and he didnot have enough to quickly do what garrett was talking about. Its normal racing that horses breaking from the rail to break inside and ones breaking from the outside break out thats what Jerry Bailey was talking about. Look at the replay and tell me if both #1&#2 horses if they even broke straight would not run into the rail.

06 May 2010 5:00 PM

El Kabong,

You're so right! Bob Baffert is the one to evaluate the situation and take the proper decision. What the heck was I thinking? Sometimes, I get carried away and think that somehow I can solve things that are really not mine to solve. Thank you for bringing me back to earth! I needed that!  :)

If Lucky goes in the Preakness, let's all hope he doesn't draw the rail! lol!

P.S. I did enjoy the irony of Hard Spun/Pino--Hard Spun/Gomez--Hard Spun/Pino.

06 May 2010 5:02 PM


you are right, when the whole world knows Calvin would be going to the rail no one attempted to block the rail nor even box him before he started to make a move.


yes a horse gets intimated after incidents LAL had gone thru(thanks to what Espinoza GRR did to him intentionally) & also especially after a fall.

06 May 2010 5:12 PM
Port Stanley

Annette - one of the reasons that the other jockeys can't stop Calvin from getting the rail is because he rides closer to the rail then they do. They may think that they have the rail, but there's still a Calvin path. Plus, the jockey that said that was Robby Albarado and he was riding Dean's Kitten. No offense to anyone, but he didn't have the horse to stop Calvin in the Derby.

Zookeeper - regarding whether or not Gomez is the best fit for Lookin At Lucky, I can't really say. But, he did get him to finish 6th, many jockeys would have given up after that start.

06 May 2010 5:19 PM
EL Kabong


The show I saw wasn't this year, it was back a few years ago. 1&2 cannot break  out and go straight. They must move over or drop back. Ice Box dropped back immediately. Lucky broke fine with IB  back there was room for him to drift out but Noble was dropping in a bit and they bumped a little. SS ran past them both then took the rail. Noble then moved out into the 2 path and did not draft SS. Lucky had the rail behind SS but was now 3 lenths behind. That left an opening behind SS that too big. That's when the clown show began. Paddy drove Vic S over into Lucky in an effort to get to that rail, and it was over.

06 May 2010 5:54 PM

Port Stanley,

You're right, he didn't give up. I feel that both horse and jockey did very well to come in 6th after everything went as badly as it did. The chart says that they were 18th at the 3/4 mile mark. Baffert said that Gomez should have pulled him up. I'm sure he didn't really mean that and I'm glad Gomez didn't have the same reaction.

06 May 2010 5:59 PM

Zoo Keeper, Port Stanley;

We know that Calvin rides the rail, closer than close. Some could say dangerously close. What are the chances that one day Calvin gets a mount that "freaks" at the rail, and desides to take a flying leap (God forbid)? What could be said, especially if it ended up being a tragedy? Would he still be the great Calvin Borel? I hope and pray it never happens. But who's to say it won't?

06 May 2010 6:40 PM

Gary Lynn, thanks for the laugh. Great recap, I anxiously awaited it and you did not fail to write another great one. I had my money on Ice Box and will again if he is in the Belmont. I think he "could Have" "should have" won the Derby. He almost did. However, when there is a field that large, one must bet on the jockey, in my opinion, and BoRail is the best!

06 May 2010 7:12 PM


How long has Borel done that at CD without this tragedy ever happening? A meteor could also fall on my head at any time now, although it has not happened in the 66 years of my stay on earth. Who's to say it won't? Maybe I should build a bunker!  :)

06 May 2010 7:32 PM

EL Kabong

you missed  the whole point i was trying to make. All i am pointing out is from the starting sate to the point which is called at the top of the stretch.Imagine you deaw a straight line from the #1 slot to the point @ the top of the stretch, & if the #1 horse runs dead straight will it runinto the rail. And why is it they dont use moveable  rails from the start to the point @ the top of the stretch at avoid this problem.

06 May 2010 7:43 PM
El Kabong


We're on the same page. sorry for the confussion, but yes, I agree. As I mentioned in that program with Bailey, the 1 & 2 hole have an inherent issue with the rail from the get go. They can't come out and run straight. It is a problem, no doubt. Don't know why it's accepted but it is.

06 May 2010 8:31 PM

Annette, I find you extremely chauvinistic in your attitude in what you consider may be male or female territory.  Perhaps it's Calvin's open emotions that have endeared him to fans.  So he cried????  What of it?  He's an emotional person(which may be why horses relate to him), he's from S. Louisiana, and he's Cajun, and it's all a part of the culture.  I love him for it.  He's been riding for a very long time, and it's only in the past 5 years that he has become such a folksy hero.  Maybe he simply appreciates the opportunities and rewards that have finally come to him.  As for his rail-skimming rides...what the jockeys actually said was that they know he'll head to the rail, but they haven't found a way to stop him.  He spots the openings.  Calvin has made an art of the rail skimming rides.  No one else can do it as well.  (though some will try but fail miserably). It must be why they call him Bo-rail.  He also knows when the rail is dead, and he knows enough to take a different lane when it's called for.  Just watch his OP races.  And finally, Calvin is the type of jockey who will win a Kentucky Derby one day, and muck out a stall the next...he's that kind of hard working person....and he loves those horses.  So don't savage him over tearful

gratitude.  If you don't want to see his emotions...turn off the TV.    

07 May 2010 8:27 AM

Mr. Haskin, Here is an edited comment on one I subitted earlier.

I found some great information on Calvin Borel's whip. It's a humane whip and is by law the only one allowed in KY, SD, and IN, and voluntarily used by tracks in CA and Saratoga. Calvin has used it for 2 yrs.

It has a larger popper which is padded, filled with foam. It's just noise, no pain or welts. I wish they would publisize this more so Calvin's use of the whip would not be so misunderstood.



07 May 2010 10:08 AM

let's turn the table and put calvin on lal and gomez on ss, my guess is lal would have finished first or second and ss would not have won.....why you ask watch the replay of the santa anita derby, at the top of the stretch, there's a hole big enough to drive a mac truck through...gomez,pull's out....some jockey's think about racing another day , some have heart and big bxxxs, and give 100% every race....some might argue that calvin has a death wish, I believe , it's alittle of both heart and bxxxs, and deserves everything he has earned.

07 May 2010 10:29 AM

the preakness is starting to look like the bank vault door, was left open for the taking....LOL

07 May 2010 10:32 AM

here's my reasoning ....gomez is a white collar jockey, alway's concerned about riding 7,8,9,10 years down the road, why risk injury....calvin,well he's blue collar 100% if the 8th at churchill is his last race ,he walks away with his head held high.

07 May 2010 10:49 AM

here's a trait that calvin has that only a handfull of jockey's has in the u.s. or even the world ....his instincts/reflexes are much faster than fellow riders he see's holes before they open, there fore his mounts are always moving forward and never stopped.....he has prize fighter reflexes...and that ain't bad at his age.

07 May 2010 11:08 AM

thanks El Kabong

at least we know now why no one wants the rail in the KY derby, its not because of a big field, almost in all other countries there are big fields in almost every race, good chance for bettors to make something, this is where racing U.S. is failing, why would someone spend the whole day to win $20 exactas or $30 trifectas. If the size of the field picks up for sure will be a great boost to racing, maybe get rid of many of the small tracks then no one can say there is a shortage of horses. Its not shoutage of horses but too many tracks.

07 May 2010 1:11 PM

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