April 14, 2010

Who is Your Derby Dark Star???

As the days leading to the Kentucky Derby wind down, we all start to form allegiances to the horses we will back in the big race. Whether we show it in the form of our wagering dollars or not, we all want our pick to do well when the gates spring open. It is a big thrill to see a horse we like cross the Churchill Downs wire first, even if the only connection is that of a fan. If you are like me, you will have more than one horse that you root for in the Derby, and a few of those, will be horses not favored to win. Derby dark horses if you will. But given one of the most famous upsets in the history of the Kentucky Derby, it seems there may be a better name for these horses. Let’s scratch the dark horse and instead call them dark stars. Of course this moniker comes directly from the 1953 Kentucky Derby champion Dark Star.

Dark Star was a brown colt by Royal Gem out of the Bull Dog mare, Isolde. Owned by Harry Guggenheim, trained by Eddie Hayward, and ridden by Henry Moreno, Dark Star was the 5th choice at just under 25-1 in the eleven horse Derby field. The speedy colt had won the Derby Trial just days before, but was not paid much attention, largely because of the presence of the Gray Ghost. Native Dancer was more than a champion, he was a national hero. A television star and a Horse of the Year as a juvenile, the undefeated gray colt entered the starting gate as an overwhelming 7-10 in America‘s most famous race. In one of the most surprising upsets ever seen, jockey Henry Moreno guided Dark Star from an outside post to a wire-to-wire win, holding off the Ghost in a furious stretch run to prevail by a diminishing margin. The photo revealed Dark Star had held on by a head. Race fans everywhere were stunned.

The Derby would be the only time in 22 career starts that Native Dancer would be defeated. It was nothing for wins for racing‘s star after that day. He rebounded quickly with a win in the Withers, and then exacted a small level of revenge over his Derby vanquisher in the Preakness. Dark Star would tire to finish a distant fifth that day and never again would win a big race. Native Dancer would go on to win the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, as well as, the Dwyer Stakes, Arlington Classic, Travers Stakes and the American Derby. Thereby cementing is place as an all-time great in American racing. How was Native Dancer beaten? As an old friend would say…“Reason tatters the forces tear loose from the axis.” Whatever you may call it, upsets happen, and Dark Star did defeat Native Dancer in one of the most famous Run for the Roses ever run. Can it happen this year?

Other than the Derby favorite, Eskendereya, and the two colts who will be nearest to him in odds, Lookin at Lucky and Sidney’s Candy, I think you can consider everyone else in the race as a potential dark star. It is very possible after the first three choices, everyone in the field will have double digit odds. That leaves 17 legitimate opportunites for this year’s Derby to produce a Dark Star like result. Of course many of those 17 will not turn out to be legitimate. It is our job to separate the pretenders from the real contenders. Maybe we will find a one day upsetter, like Dark Star, or maybe they will go on to greater futures. For now I am only worried about one race. I have begun the process and my Dark Star top five includes Awesome Act, Endorsement, Mission Impazible, Setsuko, and Super Saver in no particular order. I ask you all…Who is your Derby Dark Star???


Nick Tammaro said...

Excellent work as always, Brian. I have a Dark Star that is really a pace play. The addition of Line of David to the Derby field guaranteed that the pace is going to be strong and the potential for Eightyfiveinafifty to join the field makes the possibility of this race collapsing even greater. That brings up a horse that has two wins at 9 furlongs, will have no problem going ten furlongs, who has a trainer who's won two Kentucky Derbies in the past and one of the best young riders in the game.

Who is it? Ice Box. Many people have forgotten about his Florida Derby win because it seems like it happened sometime in January but he fits the profile of the type of horse you can take a chance with in a race with a very strong pace. I will be very interested in him on May 1, especially if his price creeps upwards of 20-1.

Good luck!

Abitaamber said...

Shall we go, you and I through the transitive nightfall of diamonds...

Oh, wait, that's a different Dark Star.

I'll dig deep and throw a lil change on Paddy O' Prado.

But a safer bet is the Dark Star Porter at Bluegrass Brewing Company.

But the 2/13/70 Dark Star at Fillmore East trumps all.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks Nick, I enjoy your work as well. Ice Box is certainly one to watch if the pace is fast, as it looks like it may be. Plus, I would not mind to see Nick Zito win one more.

Abitaamber, like minds...my fine feathered friend!

LDP said...

If Dublin counts as one he is in, I also like Endorsement and Setsuko, if the latter gets in. The pace will most certainly be a fast one, which is why I like the stalker and closer. The stalker, has show the ability to stalk fast fractions then still have the late acceleration to push him by his opponents in the stretch. Setsuko, closes well no matter what, so he is a horse that will be one to watch if he gets in. Then you have Dublin, who is always in the top three, but still hasn't gotten to the wire first.

Another horse I like is Rule. He seems like the kind of horse who can rate, even though the FL Derby did not show that. I think they will try harder in the actual Derby and if they do he should be good enough to take a peice of the pie.

Of course I am not making my final selections until the PP's are released, since we all know a bad break can spell doom in the Derby.

Rechelle said...

My pick is Stately Victor. His easy late running style will suit the Kentucky Derby easily and if he can relax in the race, I can't see why he wouldn't be a contender. There is too many front runners this year. If they set a blistering pace, they will fade before the finish line, leaving it open for a longshot like Stately Victor (remember the upset last year for similar reasons). I like his pedigree and absolutely love that Mr. Prospector & Northern Dancer are farther out in his pedigree. Pedigree is http://www.pedigreequery.com/stately+victor

Other than that, my other favorite is Eskendereya.

Anonymous said...

I plan on parlaying the Beulah Fotune 6 onto Esky.

Brian Zipse said...

RG, Do me a favor, if you win Beulah's Fortune 6, please put at least half of the winnings into your pocket!

railrunner said...

If Jackson Bend gets into the Derby with his earnings I'll take him as my "Dark Horse". I still don't understand how un-respected he is by a lot of people after all he's done. A horse that consistent and tough should never be underestimated...especially when Nick Zito is training. Not that I think he'll win the Derby (that goes to Lookin At Lucky) but he is definitely my dark horse.
It's so crazy trying to handicap a 20 horse field to find one winner! I love this sport!

Anonymous said...

Just calculated the final Fortune 6 payout. Max= $2753 to 218 ticket holders. Could be less because the condition book says mucho chalks.

Kimness said...

Setsuko! (got him @ 65-1 in pool #2)