Figuring out what happened
By Kenny Mayne
Special to ESPN.com
In horse racing, even hindsight is imperfect.
We see what occurred and still we seek to tell the story in a way that suits our premise.
If our horse lost he must not have liked the strip. Or maybe he had trouble. Or, better still, he had a bad ride. Stupid jockeys.
And if the other horse won, he must have benefited from a perfect trip, or pace, or track bias.
Win or lose, we know what's what. We have our Daily Racing Form (Hermis, let's do lunch). And we have our Bloodhorse.com, and our Horse Player Magazine. We have Eddie Mac and Bill Finley on this page, we've got Beyer figures and now Tomlinson figures (whatever those are. Is 300 good?) We have tip sheets, we have green sheets, we have Hank Goldberg giving out mortal locks. Sometimes we have that crazy British guy. We have it all. We have TVG. We have OTB. We've got every piece of information we could possibly need.
We cannot be wrong. This is science.
Monarchos looked like he was it when he blew out the field in the Florida Derby. But he dropped back in the Wood. He dropped back all the way to second place.
He was out. He was gone. He peaked too soon. It was so obvious.
For him to win the Kentucky Derby (by an increasing margin of 4 3/4 lengths) our horse must not have fired. That's it.
Or, he didn't like the track. Sure, it was a surface that yielded three track records and nearly allowed Monarchos to take down Secretariat (the heresy).
So maybe our horse wanted a little bit more of a challenge than to merely run fast over cement. Put our horse on a dull track and we'll see what's what. He'll have\ Monarchos for lunch.
There's no way our horse got beat by a superior animal. We know what we're doing. Let us quote The Wizard (from Horse Player Magazine). This was his take after Monarchos ran in the Wood: "It will take another significant move forward by Monarchos to win the Derby and I don't foresee that coming."
And James Quinn, writing in the same issue, spoke of Monarchos and his ascension from maiden status in January to a Kentucky Derby starter in May: "(it) was tantamount to an entertaining script of four-month fiction, or so history would have us believe."
That's right. We've got history on our side. Who are these Monarchos people to argue with our data? And who the hell was John T. Ward to keep Monarchos off the track when the others were working out in the mornings in the days leading up to the Derby? Isn't he aware the colts (sorry, Balto) were supposed to show off for us and provide the TV cameras with pretty pictures? You know, steam rising off the backs of the animals in the cool down bath?
Ward obviously has a thing or two to learn about how this game is played.
Point Given looked so fit. And he's really big, too. He's some kind of specimen, no? In this space, in an ESPN.com chat before the Derby, it was noted that Point Given had overshadowed Monarchos to the degree that "The Florida Derby now seems like a long time ago."
(This is mentioned so as to keep my complimentary Horse Player's Magazine subscription)
Anyway, we know of what we speak. Monarchos must have had a clean trip, a great ride. He must have benefited from those ridiculous fractions.
It couldn't simply be that he's the best three-year-old.
We don't let the best one go off at 10-1. We know too damn much to do that.
After all, this was a colt coming off a 2nd place finish in the Wood for goodness sakes. It takes more than that to impress us. We've got so much information.
We'll find the reason for what happened in Kentucky. And then we will decide what is going to occur in Maryland.
We choose to see the race in a way that aids our premise. Even a race that's been run.