KY Derby Madness Begins - The Bladensburg Races

By Kevin Stafford, the Aspiring Horseplayer

Surprise, surprise - another Derby week dawns and another round of shocking news and updates is not far behind.  The updates themselves are surprising - Eskendereya out of the Kentucky Derby - but the notion that such events will unfold this time of year should not be so.  Yet, we seem to do this with alarming regularity - running around in a collective Chinese fire drill as highly touted horses scratch from the list of Derby starters.

In 2009, this came in the form of scratches to favorites Quality Road and I Want Revenge (with the latter occurring on Derby morning and thus being excusable for having caused sudden onset fits of panic).  Now we're back in familiar territory in 2010 with the announcement on Sunday that Eskendereya is out of the Derby.

Note: no worries - it doesn't appear that Der Fuhrer has yet received word of Eskendereya's injury.

The change makes the race more interesting - no doubt about that - but does it make the race any more "wide open" than it already was (or wasn't, depending upon your perspective)?

It's not like Eskendereya was going to wire the field, and that his scratch drastically alters the pace setup.  We know we've still got speed horses in this race ranging from Conveyance to Line of David to American Lion.  Even the highly regarded Sidney's Candy has shown proficiency for being on the lead - even if the supposition is that he will attempt to stalk on Saturday.

The way I see things, all we've done is removed one layer of uncertainty from the tangled web of Derby week drama.  Regardless of the pace setup, you're either going to accept one of the lower priced, impressive horses form the West Coast in Sidney's Candy or Lookin at Lucky - or you aren't.

There's ample reason to go in either direction for each horse.  Lucky obviously could use a little luck.  He's the 2-year-old champion and there's no question he's a talented horse, but he seems to get himself into trouble every-so-often, which may not be a good sign on the eve of a field the size of the Derby.

Sidney's Candy has blown away fields in California running wire to wire over the Pro Ride and turning in impressive late fractions along the way.  How often do we hear that the Pro Ride is really turf by another name?  Doesn't that make it more impressive that a horse like Sid could wire fields the way he does?  He's also a fabulous looking colt (and to let the cat out of the bag, I'll confide here that he's my wife's top betting interest for the Derby).  He will, however, also have to do something he's never had to do at this level or against this caliber of competition - pass horses in the stretch.

Make no mistake about it though - I think Lucky and Sidney are the two horses you're going to have to beat if you want a Derby payday to remember.  They could well be standouts from a talent perspective when all is said and done.  That doesn't mean they should be considered "locks" to finish 1, 2 in the Derby, however.

Looking over the rest of the field, I find myself intrigued by Awesome Act.  I don't think he belongs anywhere near 7/2, but I was already looking at him to have an improved trip when I thought the monster we casually refer to as Eskendereya was still going to be in this race.  If Awesome gets a better trip, AND if he gets more fashionable footwear (dude had all kinds of shoe problems in the Wood), this could be a good ole fashioned British invasion (though technically Awesome Act is an American by birth, having been born in Kentucky and then shipped to England for training).

As Americans, we do enjoy a good British invasion every few years, don't we?  Most folks think the one and only British invasion involved the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but this is simply not the case.  It's a topic I know all too well having grown up in rural Cecil County, MD - a target of not one, but TWO British invasions in our first half-century of existence (the first American casualties to have ever fallen under the "stars and stripes" having happened at nearbye Cooch's Bridge in Delaware during the Brandywine campaign of 1777 - another American defeat hardly anyone has ever heard of).

In late August, 1814,  British forces under Sir Robert Ross assaulted American positions on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. at the lopsided Battle of Bladensburg.  The Americans were so routed by the redcoats that the ensuing retreat became forever known as "the Bladensburg races."

Many reading this have no doubt never heard of Bladensburg or the action fought there - quite simply, with the exception of Custer's Last Stand, we aren't a people who like to celebrate our lopsided defeats.  We're a much more victory oriented society.  We remember Gettysburg, Normandy, and Midway because "we" prevailed in those places.  At Bladensburg, it was our asses that got a royal kicking (quite literally).

The British, flushed with their recent success, advanced into the capital unopposed and set it aflame - driving president James Madison (and his wife Dolly) into the countryside seeking safety.  With the paths to Washington and Baltimore wide open, defeat for the tiny American republic seemed a foregone conclusion, but it was not to be.

Just outside of Baltimore, Major Ross was felled by the bullet of a sniper at the onset of the Battle of North Point.  With his death, the English were thrown into confusion and eventually driven from the field.  During the accompanying naval bombardment of Ft. McHenry at the mouth of Baltimore's harbor, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key would observe the cannonade and famously note with pride that on the following morning "our flag was still there."

If Awesome Act were to somehow stage the upset this weekend - in effect he'd scatter the American resistance and send them fleeing for the safety of Pimlico (Baltimore/Washington) and beyond - rather like the running of the "Bladensburg races" nearly 200 years earlier.  Obviously I'm just having some fun with the possibilities here - as technically the colt is no more "English" than anyone who has vacationed in London or had their picture taken with Big Ben in the background.  I must confess though, ever since that Gotham victory, there is something about Awesome Act that I'm extremely fond of.   I wonder what his accent is like if he neighs something about aluminum?

At the end of the day I've got the wife jumping on Sidney's Candy and the rest of the world seems to be on Lookin' at Lucky.  I'm zigging when they zag and taking Awesome Act, and of course my good friend and fellow blogger Tencentcielo has been firmly aboard the Endorsement bandwagon since, well, since Radio Flyer came out with an Endorsement themed version of their popular red wagon following the Sunland Derby.

The million dollar question is - who are you taking?  I know Post Positions aren't assigned yet and there's still ample time for a million things to go wrong - but at this point you have to have some notion of which direction you're leaning, and we'd love to hear about it.

Recent Posts

Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance

Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance RSS Feed

More Blogs