Thoughts of the Day: “What I Understand” & “What I Don’t Understand”

(Keeneland racing on Saturday / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

It has been a beautiful weekend in the Bluegrass. Weather has been great. Thoroughbred racing has been great. Football has been, well, not so great. Louisville was ripped by Georgia Tech and Kentucky was ripped off by its’ own coaching staff.

But the weekend has made me realize a couple of things:

There are some things I fully understand.

And, there are some things that I truly don’t understand.

So, let’s take a look:

I understand why Thoroughbred racing fans love Keeneland. I understand why people who love history love Keeneland. I understand why people who love parties and “people watching” love Keeneland. The place is drop dead gorgeous, and the racing is par excellence. No better place in the world — sorry, Longchamp — is more historic; more scenic; and more thoroughly Thoroughbred. It is the best.

I don’t understand how Terry Wilson, who was playing Junior College football a year ago, ended up with more rushing attempts in Kentucky’s ill-fated, disappointing, heart-breaking overtime loss at Texas A&M than did Benny Snell — probably the best running back in modern UK history and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Seriously?

I understand why people come to Keeneland to tailgate. Did it this weekend. Parked the car on the hill. Pulled up the back lid on the SUV. Set up a picnic table. And, enjoyed an adult beverage or two before heading up the hill to the beautiful racing venue. Sunshine was so much better than the moonshine. Well, let’s call it a tie.

I don’t understand how Benny Snell didn’t get to touch the ball in Kentucky’s one, lone possession in OT. You get the ball on the opposition 25-yard line. You get a chance to score. How on God’s green earth does Snell not get one touch. Not one. Seriously?

I understand that Promises Fulfilled may be the fastest 3-year-old colt in the country. After watching him win the G2 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, in his first try ever against older horses, I now think that the colt is as gutty and gritty as he is gas-filled, too. He set all the fractions and held off defending champ Whitmore and a troubled Limousine Liberal in the deep stretch, too. And, those are two wily, tough and talented veterans, too. Those three could hook up again in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and that should be a great rivalry.

I don’t understand how no other defense or coaching staff has figured out a way to stop running back Benny Snell this year, but UK’s own Eddie Gran did. He simply didn’t call any plays for him. Seriously?

I understand why God looks favorably on the Indiana-bred Bucchero, who won the G2 Woodford Stakes for the second straight year on Saturday. It was not that long ago that trainer Tim Glyshaw — one of the hardest working, hardest knocking, and most soft-hearted guys in the business — lost the Grade 1 winner Bullard’s Alley in a racing accident. It was tragic to watch. It was worse to think about the impact on this small training operation, and the man who loved his horse as much as he loves life. But it was great to see that man back on top Saturday, glowing in the sunshine and standing in the grass infield of Keeneland with his newest barn star. They deserved it. They deserved it all.

I don’t understand why the Football Gods hate Kentucky so much. Through the years, the loyal fan base have been treated to more than our share of disappointment. On Saturday night, we had to watch painfully as our field goal attempt slapped off the cross bar and fall short of a go-ahead attempt in OT. We had to watch painfully as our own coaching staff stiffed both Benny and our jets. We had to watch painfully as our defense gave all, and yet it was not enough. Seriously?

I understand young trainer Ben Colebrook being genuinely surprised and excited to celebrate Knicks Go’s victory on the Keeneland grass after winning the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. After all, it was the young man’s first G1 victory, as in ever. And, to be honest, it was fun to watch and listen to his post-race, celebratory conversation and interview. He was jubilant, effervescent, bubbly, honest, and, most of all, fun. And, that’s what racing needs most of all. More fun people. Congrats young man.

Yet…

I don’t understand how Knicks Go, the longest shot on the board at 70-1, won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday. I couldn’t bet on the horse today knowing that he won. And, he won by five easy lengths. After breaking this maiden at first asking at Ellis Park, the Maryland-bred ran fifth in the G3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, and was a non-threatening third in the Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park on the all-weather surface. What? Are you kidding me.

I understand that people love the Australian mare Winx. How could you not. She is truly remarkable. But, let’s be honest, peeps. She is nowhere close to being the best filly and/or mare in the world right now. That title, for my money, has to go to the amazing Enable. On Saturday, the 4YO daughter of Nathaniel and Sadler’s Wells’ mare Concentric won her second straight Prix de l’Arc de Triumphe. Amazing effort. Amazing run. Amazing win. Amazing filly.

I don’t understand why this country can’t breed, retain, own and race grass horses like either Enable or Winx. For that matter, I don’t understand why this country — who has the best stallion community in the entire world — can’t compete with the foreign contingency’s third and fourth string. Every year, it seems, the best grass runners are either bred, or raced on foreign soil. And, when they are shipped here? Well, they regularly kick our horse’s rear. Why is that? Well, we are looking at just that. Stay tuned.

I understand the infield party scene after Next Shares upset win in the G1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Saturday. Most of all, I loved seeing my good friend Seth Wilkey — the son of one of my best friends on this Earth — slapping high fives on anybody that stood still for a second. The horse won the Old Friends Stakes at KY Downs on Sept. 6, but he shined at Keeneland on Saturday. Seth Wilkey is a young man who is currently enrolled at the Equine Program at the University of Louisville. And, he loves this business like it is nobody’s business. Great to see for that young man.

I don’t understand how Analyze It has, apparently, lost it. In his first three career races, it looked like this horse may truly be very special. No one seemed to come even close, as he won impressively and gamely. Then, the next three races, he appeared to have them all well in hand before faltering late and running second in each. On Saturday, he looked poise for redemption. Shortening up to a mile seemed to be the perfect thing. And, he was in a perfect position. But he failed. Jockey John Velazquez said this: “I had a perfect trip, actually. He came out running and we got a nice position. I saved ground going into the first turn, and at the three-eighths pole I pointed to the outside. He got to the (leaders) at the quarter pole, and he just kind of flattened out down the lane. He didn’t stop, but he didn’t have a strong kick at the end.” Sad.

I, now, understand that my time is up.

But since I own the site, I don’t really understand why.

Have a great day.

She had two real hard races, the Acorn, the Eight Belles. We wanted to find a spot we were confident she would win. Just so she wouldn’t lose another race and get seconditis. Rodolphe picked out this one, and it worked out great.” Looking forward to a rematch with Monomoy Girl? “Not really at this moment. Maybe later. She’s still lightly raced. We still don’t know what she wants to do yet. One thing that’s encouraging about her, when she breezes in the morning, she completes the work. When she goes into the next turn galloping out, she takes off again. Who knows? She might go a mile and an eighth, mile and a quarter.”

Barry Irwin, President of Team Valor International, majority owner of the winner Talk Veuve to Me
  • 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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