Someone “always” gets a good trip at the Derby

One thing I have consistently said over the years about the Derby is someone “always” gets a good trip.

Take nothing away from Always Dreaming and his win May 6 in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Bodemeister out of the In Excess mare Above Perfection was a deserving winner.

But if you watch the replay and read the chart footnote, you will glean that, like many years, the trip was everything.

I picked McCracken first and Irish War Cry second … but this is not sour grapes. This is racing. This is handicapping.

Irish War Cry, McCracken, Tapwrit and Classic Empire all lost in the first 100 yards when they bumped with each other.

The official Equibase chart says Irish War Cry “bore in at the start initiating a chain reaction of trouble …”

Many years after the Derby we are left wondering about how “racing luck” played a role in the outcome.

Is Always Dreaming the best 3-year-old? At this point, who knows the answer to that question?

What we do know is that he was the best 3-year-old of the 20 that ran in the Kentucky Derby.

What we also know is that his name will forever be etched in the annals of racing history.

But the trip is everything. Check out these short comments from the charts:

  • Classic Empire: bobbled, roughed early
  • Tapwrit: tight, forced in, steadied
  • Gunnevera: jammed up, brushed, 5 wide, floated
  • McCracken: jostled start, bumped eighth
  • Hence: tight start, steadied 5/16
  • Girvin: tight start, roughed 5/16
  • Patch: checked, bumped 5/16
  • J Boys Echo: bounced around start
  • Sonneteer: broke slow, steadied, wide
  • Fast and Accurate: steadied early, checked 5/16
  • Irap: bumped start, 3-4 wide, steadied 5/16

That is 11 starters with serious trouble, and let’s not forget Thunder Snow, who decided right out of the gate he wasn’t going to participate and began bucking, forcing jockey Christophe Soumillon to pull him up.

Now, had every starter in the race had a perfectly clean trip was Always Dreaming still going to win? Well quite possibly. Johnny Velazquez certainly put himself in position, and Always Dreaming certainly responded.

Of the 14 races they ran at Churchill Downs May 6, I placed win wagers in eight races. The five winners and their margins of victory were: No Mo Dough (half-length); Paulassilverlining (head); Divisidero (half-length); Visionary Tale (neck); Wicked Macho (head). The three losers and their margins of defeat were: Good Samaritan (one length); Believe in Bertie (head) and McCracken (13 1/4 lengths).

Every person that has ever owned Thoroughbreds talks about the incredible highs and the devastating lows. Well they are not alone. Handicappers feel that way every day they place the races as well.

If you wager enough, you will have everything that can possibly happen in a race happen to a horse you wagered on. Until something that has never happened before … happens.

Years ago, I had the first five in a pick six on a day with a hefty carryover. In the sixth leg, I singled a horse that ran second. While on the way to the bar to have a beer and wonder “what if,” the inquiry light illuminated.

The beer turned into a celebratory drink as my horse was put up.

As handicappers, we all want to pick the winner of the Kentucky Derby. But it is really just another race once the official sign is lit. There are other races; other pools; other chances.

But for the 3-year-olds, there is only one chance to become a Kentucky Derby winner.

Always Dreaming got the trip, and with it the roses.

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
  • Dan Liebman

    Dan Liebman

      Dan Liebman attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1973 when, from the infield, he saw a glimpse of Secretariat, still today the greatest horse he has seen race. He later worked full time in equine journalism for more than 25 years, his last full time position as Editor in Chief ...

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