Derby Day Intrigue

It’s not surprising the bad and weird news the morning of the Kentucky Derby would come from trainer Jeff Mullins and IEAH. We don’t need to rehash the firestorm and skullduggery that surrounded Big Brown last year, or the stunning news that Mullins was blowing a syringe full of a drug sold under the name “Air Power” into the mouth of a horse in the detention barn the day of the Wood Memorial.

If anyone was going to scratch out of the Derby, it was likely favorite I Want Revenge.

A wise and veteran New York scribe, upon hearing the news said, “Maybe somebody put a hand on [Mullins’] shoulder and said, “It’s not your day.” Shudder at the thought of whose hand that might have been.

A less mob-oriented conspiracy theorist said, “Maybe the racing gods finally caught up with him,” but then launched into a brief history of reputed sabotage at Churchill Downs, recalling the sad defeats of Holy Bull and Skip Away and invoking the all-access vet named Alex Harthill. We’re not dredging up anything new here.

This is going to make for great television when they finally edit the tape. Could Action Andy be right?

It took a hardened gambler, however, a relentless player known as Action Andy, to come up with the greatest conspiracy theory of all: The Animal Planet Hypothesis that figures the show “Jockeys” is behind all of it.

“They followed Aaron Gryder, Talamo, Jon Court and Mike Smith,” Action Andy said. “I mean Jon Court has never won anything in his life. They picked those jockeys and Aaron Gryder goes to Dubai and wins the Dubai World Cup. They followed Jon Court with his horse to the Breeders’ Cup, and he doesn’t do any running. Then the same horse [Orthodox] happens to show up here with Animal Planet here and they win at 45-1 on Oaks day.”

Action Andy began to gather his anger at this point. “Watch Tyler Baze [on Battle of Hastings]. He stops riding; he pulls back in the stretch so he doesn’t go by.”

“And then they were following Talamo, who was on the Derby favorite. Now they can do the agony of defeat story.”

And, indeed, Animal Planet cameras were on the scene as fans shouted out their condolences and encouragement to Talamo at the track.

This is going to make for great television when they finally edit the tape. Could Action Andy be right?

Who do you trust? Mullins said at the early morning press conference, “Dr Foster Northrop flexed the leg and jogged him off and we could tell he wasn’t 100 percent … He jogged one out of five steps lame.”

Larry Bramlage, the noted on-call vet at the Derby, however, said, “He didn’t jog that bad” before noting inflammation in the ankle. “If this was not a Derby horse, you’d probably keep an eye on the injury” … which sounded like you’d probably run the horse.

Mullins, with the strangest quote: “He deserved to be here, but he doesn’t deserve to be injured.”

Reporters were turned away left and right Friday at the Mullins barn. For some reason he wasn’t taking any questions. Blood Horse veteran Steve Haskin, who goes back a ways with Mullins, did get in the door and later said he was surprised how much the trainer wanted to talk about what went on in the detention barn in New York.

Derby notes: NBC racing analyst, Bob Neumeier, who collapsed at the track on Oaks, was discharged from a Louisville hospital …

Lock of the day, Gold Brew, who we didn’t give out because we’re greedy, lost a big lead at the top of the lane as the gambling windfall disintegrated before it began. In fact, the tote machines at the track went down, creating temporary chaos to rival the usual malfunctions on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

Inside the press box, the two barely functional human tellers were overwhelmed when the crack Churchill Downs staff decided to let the Millionaires Row swells into our quarters to wager. Others and myself got shut out on the first Pick Four because of these interlopers.

When LeAnn Rhimes steps up to sing the National Anthem, it will be the fourth playing of the jingle at the track today. That’s a lot of standing up and sitting down …

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