OPINION: Cleaning Out the Ole’ Muck Pit After the 145th Kentucky Derby / Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down 2nd Edition

(Japan’s Master Fencer training before this year’s Kentucky Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Every so often, we will be addressing a few things: comments, decisions, people, whatever that – for one reason or another – should be tossed into the literary “muck pit.”

It is in the spirit of cleanliness, recycling, and protecting the environment that we offer this service of “addressing the muck” – free of charge. After all, someone has to do it, right?

And, it didn’t take long for us to find a few pounds of, well, manure.

Here is a look at our 15th Edition”: Our Annual “Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down” Review of the Kentucky Derby…Edition #2

On Monday, we gave you our “4 Thumbs Up” and “4 Thumbs Down.” We stopped there on Monday, because we thought that was enough light reading for the day. Plus, we needed something else to write for Tuesday.

We got plenty of stuff, thanks to Gary and Mary West insistence on filing an appeal to the Steward’s decision to issue a disqualification of their horse — Maximum Security — in the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

It took a lot less time to deny the appeal than the 21 minutes and 57 seconds it took to issue the disqualification — and rightfully so.

But I doubt the Wests are going away any time soon, or, for that matter, quietly. Too bad, really. Their horse wronged a lot of other horses and people last Saturday. Now, they are wrong, too. Yet, in a world where people file lawsuits just for the fun of it, I’m sure we are soon to see another protracted legal battle that will be more muddy than the race itself. And, it will be far from fun — for anyone.

But let’s move on, shall we?

Here’s today’s edition of “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”:

(Mike Ziegler, Churchill Downs’ Director of Racing, and his lovely wife at this year’s Kentucky Derby / Facebook Photo)

👍👍👍: Mike Ziegler and the Churchill Downs’ Racing Team for Recruiting, Luring, Attracting Japan-bred Master Fencer to 145th Kentucky Derby:

Several years ago, my good friend and confidant, Mike Ziegler, told me that he was on a mission. Some thought it may be an “Impossible” one. Mike, ever the optimist and all-around great guy, did not. And, with the help of the entire racing team at Churchill Downs, they built into the Kentucky Derby “Points System” a way to pique the interest of the Japanese racing community and a route that one of the country’s best 3-year-olds could earn their way to the States and into the greatest race in the world.

Mike made several trips to Japan. He entertained. He promoted. He advertised. He hired local public relations teams and firms. And, they went to prominent races just to see and be seen; to listen and pay respects; to seek an audience and to seek a return visit.

Some trips lasted awhile.

Some trips were nearly, and literally, back-and-forth.

Some trips fruitful.

Some trips fruitless.

But this year, Mike Ziegler and his team landed the first Japan-bred colt to ever make the trip and run in the Kentucky Derby. Master Fencer, trained by Koichi Tsunoda and owned by Katsumi Yoshizawa, made the trip.

And, on Saturday, in the 145th version of the Kentucky Derby, the horse made the trip worthwhile — for all.

The colt — with his sparkling pink ear muffs dancing in the midst of a cloudy day — ran a sparkling 6th in, around, through, up and over all the ruckus that was mixed at the quarter pole. His eye-catching finish from last in the group of 19 to a near point of real contention was surprising (perhaps) and exhilarating (definitely).

And, it was proof positive that the experiment worked. That all the hard work had worked. That the recruiting was worth it.

After all the math was done, and accounted for, Japan fans and customers — who awoke early on Sunday morning to catch the 8 a.m. post time — had wagered a total handle of $4.1 million into the Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel pools. And, that helped Churchill ‘Downs reach an all-time record high of $165.5 million on the Kentucky Derby, alone. Wagering from all-sources on the KY Derby Program totaled $250.9 million — an increase of 11% over the 2018 totals and shatter the previous record of $225.7 million.

It is wagering totals like these that assist and help enable Churchill Downs to increase purses throughout its’ racing program year-round.

Despite what you might read and hear from the bitter Wests, this is not about greed.

It is about grit and determination to help make, enhance, promote and maintain the Kentucky Derby as the world’s “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.” It is about exploring new venues and ways to showcase the world’s great horse race to new fans, and bettors. It is about expanding the universe of enthusiasts, supporters, and potential owners.

And, it is about raising the bar for all of Churchill Downs’ racing products.

Congratulations, Mike. Congratulations, Churchill Downs.

Some of us thank you for your amazing grit.

👎👎👎 Andy Nesbitt, “USA Today”:

I don’t know Andy Nesbitt. Never met the guy. And, truth be known, don’t ever care to meet him, talk with him, or make any kind of introduction. I already know that the man is a fool.

After Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, he wrote the following:

“The 2019 Kentucky Derby was a total embarrassment to the sport and will be remembered that way for the rest of time.

“Because boy was that controversial ending a joke.”

Truthfully, Andy, you are the embarrassment. You are the joke.

As you admit, later in your ramblings that some may call journalism, you have no expertise in the field of horse racing — and, obviously, no idea what you watched, witnessed, viewed, and, subsequently, wrote about.

So, instead of relying on the credibility of those professionals that have spent more time watching horses, riding horses, studying horses, and adjudicating horse races, you suddenly decided to opine based on your ignorance.

Good job.

You fulfilled that goal.

You wrote:

“Now I’m no horse racing expert but just about everyone on the NBC broadcast seemed to think that this historic ruling wouldn’t be made.”

That’s deep research for a man who doesn’t know where to insert commas in the structure of a sentence. That’s great reporting skills. That’s an amazing deep-dive into the whys, and why-nots that went into a historic decision that was reached by a panel of experts. After all, it was absolutely the right decision — based on facts, and the law.

But the fact that any periodical would even consider printing your dribble is the most amazing thing. You and your employer are exactly the reasons why most people today cast a jaundice eye towards everyone in the media. It is people like you that empower the skeptics, and render the rest of us powerless to defend.

Great job. You are an embarrassment. A total one.

Tomorrow, we delve into the rest of the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” winners.

Hope you have a great day.

 

 

 

 

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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