High Jinx
Photo: Lee Thomas
Ray Paulick
Editor-in-Chief

Finally, after 23 years, Breeders’ Cup officials can let out a sigh of relief. James Tafel’s Street Sense proved that life does exist for a horse after winning the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). The Street Cry colt’s victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5 made him the first Juvenile winner to go on to capture the Run for the Roses the following spring.

It’s been a dozen years since the Juvenile winner finished in the top three in the Derby, and that’s happened only twice since the Breeders’ Cup was inaugurated in 1984. The Juvenile’s first winner, Chief’s Crown, ran third to Spend a Buck as the 6-5 Derby favorite in 1985, and Juvenile victor Timber Country was third to Thunder Gulch as part of a 3-1 favored entry in the 1995 Derby.

Nine Juvenile winners never made it to the starting gate for the Derby.

Now that Street Sense has proved that it can be done, why not tie the two races together with a multi-million-dollar bonus going to a horse that captures both events? While the two races stand tall on their own, they can both get even stronger through the cooperative marketing efforts of the Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs.

SPEAKING OF BONUSES...

Race sponsors are always looking for ways to get more bang for their marketing buck, but the $1-million bonus promoted by Derby sponsor Yum! Brands should never have seen the light of day.

The so-called Yumfecta (critics called it the dumbfecta) would have paid $250,000 each to the winning jockey, trainer, and owner of the Derby winner if the horse exceeded Barbaro’s 2006 winning margin of 6½ lengths. Another $250,000 would have gone to support laminitis research.

The idea that winning the Derby wasn’t enough, that the winning jockey should be whipping and slashing to exceed Barbaro’s winning margin, is insulting to anyone who understands the game. Some tried to convince Yum! not to introduce the bonus, but the fast-food hucksters insisted.

Furthermore, using the memory of the gallant Barbaro to promote such an ill-conceived idea was exploitation of the worst kind—especially since, in the end, Yum! Brands apparently failed to provide any contributions toward laminitis research.

This is not the kind of sponsor horse racing needs.

NO WELCOME WAGON

Shortly after talks between TVG and Churchill Downs broke down this spring, making Churchill Downs races unavailable on the industry’s most widely distributed television network, Churchill officials added insult to injury by denying TVG personnel press credentials to cover pre-Derby activities.

Churchill Downs would have been the primary beneficiary of the additional publicity, which TVG would have been happy to provide, even though its customers couldn't bet on the Derby. That’s why the track’s decision to ban TVG personnel is so mystifying.

BUTCH'S LAIR

Track superintendent Butch Lehr received a great deal of criticism at last year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the apparent inside bias on the Churchill Downs main track. He he should receive praise for the way he and his crew managed to have a safe, fair, and fast main track for the Derby.

The deluge that hit Louisville for most of Derby week, and particularly after the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), left the track a muddy mess, but Lehr worked his magic overnight and throughout Derby day, sealing the track early and then opening it up midway through the card to hasten the drying process. Of course, it helped that predicted rains never materialized on Derby day, but Lehr and his team deserve kudos for a job well done.

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