Wrong moves

April, 15, 2010
We figured out Saturday that Aikenite isn't a Kentucky Derby horse, as Mr. Campbell told The Daily Racing Form on Monday. The Blue Grass Stakes kind of left me scratching my head because I was three-wide most of the trip, traveling well, and then by the time we got to the four-sixteenths pole he was pretty much done and kind of wilted on me.

I actually think you can throw a lot of the Blue Grass out for the simple fact that many of the horses who ran in it were switching to Polytrack from dirt. But as anyone who has been following the season will tell you, a lot of your main Derby horses have already had their preps and are standing out -- horses like the Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya and my horse, Lookin at Lucky. I was a little disappointed with the Arkansas Derby because I thought Noble's Promise would win and he's provided good competition for my horse in the past, but it looks like he had a little bit of an alibi with the cuts on his front legs. Hopefully he heals up quickly from those injuries so we can meet down the road.

I've been pretty busy since I got to Lexington. I flew in on the redeye last Tuesday evening and rode seven races the next day. I had to go work a couple of horses for Todd Pletcher in Louisville, so Saturday was actually the first day I even went out to eat -- before that I was just grabbing a little bit of fast food on the way home so I could catch the Masters on TV.

If you've read this blog for long, you probably know I'm an avid golfer and a pretty big fan. The Masters is cool to watch. I think it's the best tournament that we have on TV, and the broadcasters do an excellent job. Of course, this year's edition was interesting to more people than usual because of Tiger Woods. I think he's still the best golfer in the world and I get a thrill out of watching him play because he brings so much talent to the sport. But I think where his situation got out of control was when the public and his promoters took him away from just being an athlete and tried to make him this perfect persona thing. He's an athlete, people like to watch him play golf, and that has nothing to do with his personal life. Now that doesn't mean I condone what he was doing. But I still like to watch him play.

Speaking of things I don't necessarily condone, what happened after the Santa Anita Derby was one of them. By now you've probably read all the reports, comments, and questions that came when I punched Victor Espinosa following the race. I try to be pretty frank about what I'm thinking and feeling when I write in this space, so here's my take on the situation.

Basically, you can see what happened if you watch the replay. I got around the first turn and I was already down inside because trainer Bob Baffert didn't want the horse making a wide run, so I found myself room on the rail. I was like, "If I can commit to getting in behind the horse on the lead, I'll be fine."

The horses sitting outside of me were all ones I didn't think were live enough, and they were gonna stop at the three-eighths pole. Where I was headed, there was room for two horses in there until all of the sudden Victor decided to come in, looked under his arm, and dropped down on top of me.

People have offered the criticism that I should have been on the outside, but two more jumps and I am out of there before we turn for home. Listen, I'm the first one to tell you if I rode a bad race, just ask Bob Baffert. I'll call him and say, "That was my fault, I let the horse get too far back," or "I messed that one up." But this situation was just one of those things that was needless and could have been avoided. I know. I've been doing this for a long time.

As we've seen over and over again, one wrong move by any of us can be catastrophic out there. When we're riding, not only do we have our own lives in our hands, but we're also responsible for the lives of the guys beside us. One little stop, we're talking inches, can cause a tragic fall. In 1991 at Arlington Park, a horse came over next to my horse just as mine went to switch leads, and he bumped my horse who crossed legs and fell. And that was just a little accidental bump, not a blatant move.

I always look at it like this -- I don't do anything out there that I don't want done to me. We have our own rules on the racetrack; what goes on, how we're supposed to behave. Sure, you have the stewards' rules in the first place, but when you become a rider you learn certain things you're supposed to do and certain things you're not supposed to do ever, period.

So when somebody crosses that line, tempers flare. I don't like anyone messing with my life, and when I got back I was furious. You don't take an animal and use them to get even with somebody; you're asking for trouble -- and I was lucky that my horse was able to recuperate. It didn't look like much, but when he boxed me in, my horse stuck his feet into the ground on the second jump. And when he bounced me around in there, there was no call for it.

It was a situation that I personally should have handled in a more professional way; the way I reacted was in the heat of the moment and I feel that I'm a better professional than I displayed on that day. It's in the past now, though, and the fortunate thing is that nothing worse came of it.

As far as Lookin at Lucky is concerned, he was lucky again, despite the adversity. Fortunately, it's all systems go to the Derby and we'll see if Bob and I can do better than last year together -- which, of course, would equal a trip to the winner's circle.



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?