AND, THEY'RE OFF…

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by Dr. Diz

Hall of Famer Secretariat

GRAND PRAIRIE, TX – Joe Larry called me up the other day. Said he was readin’ in the paper that it’s National Secretariat Day today, April 21st… Well yee-haw, with the annual Triple Crown series looming, we figured it was time to head to Lone Star Park to see the ponies run and to pay homage to the best horse ever to run in the series, Secretariat.

There wasn’t any horse that dominated like Secretariat, or that grabbed the public’s imagination like him. There are only two sports items that I remember the nuns at my old grade school ever acknowledging; The Miracle Mets of ’69 and Secretariat. That horse just permeated the imagination and awareness of all levels and strata of society at the time.

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    Swaboda’s catch was heaven sent….

He won TheTriple Crown for the first time in 25 years in 1973. Set the still standing record for the Derby (1:59 2/5), tied the track record at Pimlico, and then set a world record for 1 ½ miles on dirt at Belmont that also stands to this day (2.24 flat). He also set the record for margin of victory at 31 lengths. He was on the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sport Illustrated. What a horse.

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The competition at Lone Star was, obviously, a little below that talent level. But given that they were featuring $1.50 beers and a live band between races, we were somehow able to suffer through. And the track itself is a beauty, having hosted the Breeders Cup back in 2004.

In the words of the immortal Tom T. Hall, a day at the track reinforces the things that an old cowboy philosopher told him were the secrets to life…”older whiskey, younger women, faster horses…more money.”

So who is in the running for the first leg of the Triple Crown, and America’s oldest continuous sporting event, the Kentucky Derby?

Eskendereya looks good and won the Wood Memorial at that rail bird junkie heaven, the Big A, in his last outing. He’s the current betting favorite. Anybody who calls horse racing the sport of kings has not spent a lot of time at Aqueduct…more like the sport of the hopeless, hapless and care worn. But it does have a certain low brow charm to it. Kind of like the horse racing version of Charles Bukowski.

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    “I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed
    but all I could do was to get drunk again.”
    -Charles Bukowski

Looking at Lucky & Sidney’s Candy came in third and first respectively at the stakes at Santa Anita, one of America’s prettiest racetracks (well, when the smog is not bad and you can see the backdrop of the mountains). Stately Victor could make some noise, coming off a Blue Grass victory, and Nick Zito trained and Florida Derby winner Ice Box is looking good.

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I attended the booze-a-thon known as the Arkansas Derby up in Hot Springs which is about a four-hour ride from here (considered “next door” in Texas terms). Hot Springs is the hometown of Bad Boy Billy Clinton, who played his saxophone in the high school band. The school nickname is, fittingly, The Trojans.

Let me tell you, anyone who ever questions what made Slick Willy the man he is has never been to Hot Springs. The town had a notorious reputation as a gamblers den and, through Clinton’s formative years, had a wide open and well known network of illegal gambling clubs and late night booze joints going 24/7. Al Capone used to hang out there and owned a couple of joints back in the day. They shut that down in the mid 70’s, but the town still likes to party hard, and the Arkansas Derby is quite the experience.

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Line of David, a complete upstart who had never won before in his career and had always raced and trained on turf before, won the race. He will not be entering the Derby. The second and third place finishers will, however, and are both considered top contenders; Super Saver and D. Wayne Lukas trained Dublin.

And finally, you can’t ignore Bob Baffert. His Conveyance did not impress at the Sunland Derby, finishing 2nd, but Baffert knows how to train for the big enchilada, and you can never count his horses out.

Had an OK night and Joe Larry finished up kinda sorta OK also. He kinda looked like a squashed June bug after all those cheap beers. Guess he just couldn’t help himself.

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    Let’s do a little huntin’ and more beer drinkin’ after the races….

Speakin’ of beer drinkin’, I’m looking forward to my summer visit to the North and going to the Haskell in New Jersey, one of the premier sporting events I’ve attended and always a good day at beautiful Monmouth Park. They allow you to bring coolers in with your own beer and wine. And, for my city friends, it’s easy to get to since they run NJ Transit trains right to trackside…no worrying about that drinkin’ and drivin’ thing. Monmouth, by the way, was started by Teddy Roosevelt and his buds back in the late 1800’s. Harrumph. Bully.


Rachel Alexandra winning last year’s Haskell

Uh, jeeze… Ms. Louisiana just informed yours truly that it is National Secretaries Day not National Secretariat Day.

Oh, never mind… For your viewing pleasure, a replay of that 73 Derby…and here’s to a great Triple Crown series this year. Drink up on those mint julips, and make sure you use real Maker’s Mark to mix en’.

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About the Author ()

Doc Diz resides in Fort Worth, Texas for the past 15 years. When not playing old boys rugby or skiing, he is known for sampling Maker's Mark for its medicinal qualities. A native of Connecticut, the Doc has managed to move around enough to have lived in all four US time zones, which has allowed him to get a little perspective from west of the Hudson where guns, drilling for oil and gas and Big Gulp soda pops are still legal.

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