Trash and treasure

May, 7, 2011
You want to end your day filling out forms. The government kind. Always bring your Social Security card to the track because you'll need it to cash trifectas and superfectas like the ones from today's Kentucky Derby.

But I was filling out forms at 9:30 a.m. I'd hit the front end of the Oaks/Derby double, thanks to Bob Baffert's Plum Pretty on Friday. Minutes later, I wanted to brag to Hank Goldberg of my position in racing except I had no ticket to show. It was in the garbage, I believe, under plates of press box food. My pal Rolly Hoyt slyly moved the can around the corner and out of view of the scribes so I could dig through. Having worked in the garbage industry in my youth, I liked my chances. As I pulled tickets from the inside of ham sandwiches, I felt no humiliation. In fact, the only embarrassment was that I'd worked on the can away from the other members of the working media. Each and every one of them would have dug through a landfill in order to secure a ticket with a chance at being worth something north of $1,000.

Before any pride surfaced I learned there's a way to recover a lost ticket other than digging through a garbage can away from the view of people who would also dig through that same can were they alive to five horses in the Kentucky Derby. The good people of Kentucky informed me a visit to Guest Services would begin the process toward recovering my investment. Only the Guest Relations office had closed.

At 9:30 it was wide open. Forms filled, I was nearing complete recovery. Master of Hounds, Mucho Macho Man, Midnight Interlude, Soldat and Nehro were my five. When once I was deep into a barrel of trash, I was now just nine hours from world domination, a winner of the Oaks-Derby double.

Johnny Velazquez was low Friday as well. Not trash bin low, but low. His runner, Uncle Mo, the runaway winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here at Churchill last November, had scratched. This was a horse many once believed to be a true Triple Crown threat, something not accomplished since Affirmed did so in 1978. Uncle Mo hadn't looked like that 2-year-old phenom this spring and now an unexplained illness had Velazquez without a mount.

But longshot Animal Kingdom needed a rider. Robby Albarado was injured this week and the Animal Kingdom connections called on Velazquez to step in.

This Derby had been described as being wide open. Just like a bunch of them. Just like the one in which Barbaro won by 6½ lengths. But this time people meant it. The players didn't seem to know what to make of it because by the time the gates opened, it seems the fans had voted more than wagered. The female jockey, Rosie Napravnik, good as she is, had drawn all sorts of support from people who like female jockeys. Pants on Fire, once 20-1, closed at 8-1. Calvin Borel, good as he is, and winner of three of the last four Derbys, took action to make his 20-1 horse Twice the Appeal an 11-1 proposition as well.

Animal Kingdom received support, I guess, because of the TV show, Animal Kingdom. Wait, that was Wild Kingdom.

He moved from 30-1 to 20-1 at the close. This was his fifth lifetime start and his greatest accomplishment to date had been a Grade 3 win at Turfway Park, close by Northern Kentucky Airport, if you ever miss a flight. But other than that there was little to recommend. Animal Kingdom had never raced on dirt. Turf and fake dirt, sure. But not the kind of dirt God had intended animals to run on while humans gambled. Stupid, digging-through-garbage humans.

One of my five was Nehro. And turning for home it appeared the trash experience and the time spent filling out the 1040-style Customer Services form was well worth it. Corey Nakatani had my horse moving toward the lead in deep stretch. Five times the $2 Oaks/Derby double would be mine, to say nothing of complementary plays in the exacta and trifecta arenas.

But John Velazquez had no interest in any of that. Johnny V had never won a Kentucky Derby, and he'd lost his best chance to date at winning one when Uncle Mo scratched. But now he had Nehro measured. He had my tickets in the trash, something that'll be long forgotten at Pimlico in two weeks. For, as Nick Zito often says, "you can't even lose if you don't enter." He did, with the favorite, Dialed In, and finished eighth. But then, Dialed In only won the Florida Derby.

Animal Kingdom won the damn Spiral at Turfway Park. Plus there was that TV show. To say nothing of Johnny Velazquez, whose Friday was long forgotten on Saturday.

Me? I'm about to throw more tickets in the trash. There's no shame in betting the 12th and 13th races after the Derby. I'm fully entered in this Triple Crown. The Preakness is just two weeks away.

Kenny Mayne

Kenny Mayne -- known for his offbeat style, dry humor and unique sayings -- has served a variety of roles in more than 10 years with ESPN. He currently provides features to SportsCenter and "The Mayne Event" segments to Sunday NFL Countdown.



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