(Essential Quality / Photos by Coady Photography)

Here are a few random thoughts for your Sunday brunch. Well, it may be early dinner by now. Either way, some things to chew on.

Essential Quality:

He is really, really good. No matter what the surface. No matter what the distance. No matter what the competition. He always shows up. And, he shows up with enough of his “A Game” packed to get the job done. Every single time. Love to see this one go to the “First Saturday in May” undefeated and still the reigning champ. That would be fun.

Brad Cox:

Why is it that sports peeps always are sports “skeptics?” Nobody really like D. Wayne Lukas when he was winning everything in sight back in the 1980s for owners like Eugene Klein and Robert & Beverly Lewis. I know. I was there. And, to be honest, I was one of them. Some questioned his tactics. Others questioned his methods. Others questioned whether or not he would take an edge. Some questioned the legendary John Wooden, who coached the UCLA Bruins to championships and winning streaks never seen before or since. Some question the success of Nick Saban, who is dominating the NCAA football landscape like nobody before him. Seems as if people just don’t like people that succeed. I’ll tell you this, though. I like Brad Cox — who may have one of the deepest and most talented “teams” of horses on the planet today. He is a really good guy. And, he is doing a really good job. Could it be that the man just gets good horses and does a good job with them? I’m a believer. And — maybe, just maybe — you “doubters” can give the man a chance before he gets as old as the great D. Wayne Lukas is today. Why not try that thought on for size. After all, it is Sunday.

Greatest Honour:

Does this horse remind you, at all, of Easy Goer? Remember him? The “Champion” 2YO in 1988 who later hooked up with Sunday Silence in one of the racing game’s greatest rivalries ever. The striking son of the great Alydar and the same horse to finally settle the score with his arch nemesis in the 1989 Belmont Stakes, when he roared through the stretch to win by 8 lengths in the 2nd fastest time in the history of the G1 Stakes. Easy Goer was also trained by Shug McGaughey, and he was a force when he finally got his tank-like body around the turn and headed straight in the stretch drive. Seems as if Greatest Honour has a lot of Raise a Native blood in his pedigree like Easy Goer did, too. (I’m going to ask my great friend, Rob Murphy, the best bloodstock analyst I’ve ever known to do a compare and contrast. Stay tuned for that. Fun.) Seems as if Greatest Honour’s greatest asset is his ability to straighten and finish, too. Seems as if his HOF trainer is headed for another possible showdown and duel with some other great ones — too. Now, that will be some fun.

Shug McGaughey:

I’ve known this man for a long, long, long time. He went to Tates Creek High School in Lexington and was best friends with a great friend of mine — Dave Bunnell. Dave was a football coach with Roy Walton, and one of the best golfers to ever grace the links in Central Kentucky. Dave is the father of my daughter-in-law, Kate, too. Kate is one of the most kind and generous people I have ever met or known, and she has passed those traits along to my two grandsons, Ford and Jack, as well. And, Dave was a guy that every other guy wanted to know or be like. He was that good a man. At Dave’s visitation, several years ago, I looked up and saw Shug in the line to pay his last respects. He stood in line, quietly. He never made a fuss. He just waited. Inched along. Spoke to Dave’s wife, Patsy, and the rest of the family. And, headed for the door. Nobody in the entire room took special attention. And, that is just the way Shug McGaughey wanted it. That is the way he always wants it. He just shows up. Pays his dues and respects. Does the job. And, leaves. In other words, he is a class act. And, the great thing about it? It is no act. Shug is all class.

Shug McGaughey, Part II:

When I first met Shug at the racetrack, he was training for John Ed Anthony and his Loblolly Stables. They had a lot of success through the years together with horses like Vanlandingham and so many others. Now, after a divorce and a respite from racing, Anthony is back in the game again and on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” with a 3YO colt by the name of Caddo River. Who is trained by, none other, Brad Cox.

Could be an interesting and ironic twist of fate going forward.

Could it be another racing rivalry?

Boy, I hope so.

They are so much fun.


I know that the Champion 2YO filly, who was so dominant in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last November, was making her 2021 debut on Saturday in the G2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. I know that trainer Robert Reid had indicated — going into the Stakes event — that maybe she was not completely “cranked up” and at her best. I know that the first race back off an extended vacation can be somewhat taxing.


Her performance on Saturday was a debacle.

She was bet down to odds-on favoritism, and she barely beat one horse. After a slight bump when the real racing began, she stayed on her left lead in the stretch. After showing no interest in continuing on, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. finally just pulled her up. She was eased and walked off the track.

Here’s hoping that there is nothing seriously wrong with the filly. Here’s hoping that she can return to her former self and racing success. Here’s hoping.


That race on Saturday was not encouraging.

Kentucky Derby 2021 Could Be One of the Best Ever:

With the Kentucky Derby getting here as fast as a 3YO in deep stretch, it looks like this year’s field could be one of the best in recent history. In no specific order, there are the likes of Life Is Good; Medina Spirit, Concert Tour, Essential Quality, Greatest Honour, Mandaloun, Caddo River, Candy Man Rocket all gearing up.


Just wow.

Can’t wait.

Turfway Park:

What about the little Northern Kentucky track hosting two events on Friday night that had qualifying points for this year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks? Now, that is what I am talking about.

Just wait until Churchill Downs gets the facility rebuilt and fully operational. They already have a new track surface, and it is drawing rave reviews. But wait till they get the HHR Venue and the new Clubhouse/Grandstand constructed and open. Just wait.

It will be a showplace. And, it will be a racing destination that many will want to utilize in the winter months, too.

Anybody thank Churchill Downs for that investment?

On top of the investment at Oak Grove?

On top of the investment at Churchill Downs?

Any body?


Arlington Park:

There is no bigger fan of Arlington Park than me. I love the place. And, it is show place. Beautiful facility. Beautiful racetrack. Beautiful memories.

So many thoughts. John Henry vs. The Bart. How did John Henry win that race, after all? The first Million Dollar Race in the Arlington Million. How about Manila and Mill Native winning there in back-to-back years. So many memories.

When it was announced last week that it was for sale, I fully anticipated and could understand the gnashing of teeth. I felt a little of both of those emotions, as well.

But if the horse racing industry truly wants to save Arlington Park, then why doesn’t the horse racing industry buy it from Churchill Downs — which has every right in the world to sell it to the highest bidder.

Why doesn’t The Jockey Club opened up the vaults and spend some of our hard-earned money that we have paid them over the generations to purchase Arlington Park?

Why doesn’t The Breeders’ Cup dip into their treasure trove and spend some of our hard-earned money that we have paid them over the years, now, to purchase Arlington Park and make it the full-time home of the World’s Championships? No better place.

Why don’t a group of the world’s biggest and best horse sales and auction companies throw in? After all, they have made how much off selling our horses? The place could make one helluva venue for some horse sales in the future.

And, lastly, if Churchill Downs is investigating another possible venue for some sort of “relocation plan” in Illinois, then why not give the world’s greatest racing institution the chance to find it and do it?

Seems to me if the industry wants to step up, now is the time to step up.


But I don’t hear any stepping.

Matt Jones:

Seems as if the host of the Kentucky Sports Radio “empire” isn’t too enthralled with the Kentucky General Assembly passing legislation that will authorize the use of Historical Horse Racing machines at Kentucky’s licensed racetracks and help save the Commonwealth’s signature industry. After all, the media hack takes a swing at the legislature and the horse industry several times a day now.

(Interesting to note, though, he only calls out Churchill Downs, and the Red Mile. Conveniently, he leaves out Keeneland, who is partners with the Red Mile on the HHR venture in Lexington. Hmmm.)

Wonder if Jones’ distain has anything to do with the fact that TwinSpires.com ended its’ advertising promotion with his little network recently? Wonder if Jones’ loss of appetite for the horse industry has anything to do with his recent loss of revenue? Just wondering.

But what we do know — for sure — is that Jones somehow believes that he and his little bar in Lexington — which is located near The Red Mile, a standardbred racing and HHR facility — should be able to offer sports betting and any other type of wagering that he envisions or wants. Just like that. Snap of the fingers. And, we should deregulate gaming and allow him — and anyone else that can scrap enough money together to open a bar — the ability to have, conduct and ensure wagering.

Never mind that the racetracks have invested zillions in the Commonwealth for generations.

Mind mind that the horse industry has spent and continues to spend zillions in the Commonwealth for jobs, goods, and services that are essential to nearly every occupation within our borders.

Never mind that HHR devices are — and have always been pari-mutuel in nature — tested, monitored and heavily regulated to ensure compliance with all state and federal laws.

Never mind that racetracks — and the industry that support them — must maintain facilities to conduct live horse racing events, and, thus, provide our great Commonwealth with green space galore and tourist opportunities that very few venues in the entire world can compete with or compare to.

Throw all that history and future out the window. After all, little Matt thinks his little bar has the right to offer unlicensed, unregulated, untested, unmonitored wagering, too. And, if he can’t get that right, he is willing to throw a hissy fit every day on his social media platforms.

Here’s the thing, Matthew.

Holding a pari-mutuel license in the Commonwealth is not a right.

It is a privilege.

One that is granted to only a statutorily limited number of venues located throughout our state. One is must be earned with a proposal that passes muster and granted only after an extensive and thorough review by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. And, one that must be earned every day and every year by proving to be both successful at conducting live racing meets and protecting the integrity of both the sport and the wagering instruments utilized therein.

I doubt that you know how a HHR machine works. I doubt that you can comprehend the massive amount of investment dollars that have been spent to create a device that utilizes information from past horse races and incorporates a turf pari-mutuel wagering concept.

I doubt that you can build, own and operate a licensed horse racing facility, either. One that meets all the requirements of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

But I will offer you this, Matt.

There have been several licenses up for either sale or development in the past few years. Ellis Park was sold. Kentucky Downs was sold. A new license is being proposed near Corbin now. I’m sure there will be others to come available in the future. Why don’t you get your investment team together and bring your best offer to the Commission. If it makes sense and you have the ability to perform, I bet you get the chance to put your money where your rather expansive mouth and obnoxious opinions are right now.

My guess is that you won’t ever have the guts or the ability to do that, though. You just want to wet your diaper and cry about it.

Then again, what can one expect out of a guy that in one sentence bashes an 18-year-old kid for missing a layup in a college basketball game, and then, a sentence later, calls himself a member of the team by stating “we,” should do this; and “we” should do that.

Simply put?

You are not the kind of teammate that most of us want to be around, or, for that matter, listen to.

Time for your diaper change.